The Air Ambulance Service

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The Air Ambulance Service
Legal statusRegistered charity
PurposeFinance and co-ordination of three UK air ambulance charities
  • Blue Skies House, Butlers Leap, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV21 3RQ
Region served
Chief Executive
Andrew Williamson[1]

The Air Ambulance Service (TAAS) is a registered charity in the UK that runs two emergency air ambulances, the Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance and the Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance, and also operates the national Children's Air Ambulance, an emergency transfer service for seriously ill babies and children.

The Charity's membership of the Association of Air Ambulances is currently suspended due to an investigation by the Charity Commission.


G-RSCU and G-HEMZ - the second of which is now used as the Children's Air Ambulance.

The service runs three services, two are emergency helicopters covering Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland and the third is the Children's Air Ambulance that covers England and provides an emergency transfer service for seriously ill babies and children. The Children's Air Ambulance has also completed a number of missions to Wales and Scotland.

Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance and the Children's Air Ambulance are operated from Coventry Airport, and Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance is operated from East Midlands Airport.

The charity leases its three AgustaWestland AW109 helicopters from Sloane Helicopters.[2] They can reach a maximum speed of about 185 mph. Two new AW169 helicopters are leased from Specialist Aviation Services, which will replace an AW109 when training is complete.

The Children's Air Ambulance can reach anywhere in the UK within two hours, and can reach all of the UK's specialist children's units within 70 minutes. Both children and clinical teams are moved using the AW109 helicopter, which is always flown with two pilots. The clinical teams usually consist of a paediatrician and a specialist nurse.

Children are transported in a bespoke stretcher designed and built in partnership with consultant paediatricians and transport nurses. It can carry a baby up to 8 kg being in a specialist ‘baby pod’, or facilitate larger babies and children on the stretcher mattress. The stretcher design allows for the equipment needed for paediatric intensive care to be secure and easily operated, whether in flight or on the ground.

If children are too ill to travel, the Children's Air Ambulance will transfer specialists from one of their clinical partner teams to a local hospital. It is not a helicopter emergency medical service, which go to the scenes of medical emergencies and trauma for pre-hospital intervention, but rather an inter-hospital emergency transfer service.

The service currently works with six NHS clinical partner teams across the country. Working alongside a key clinical partner, the service has achieved accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems, a recognised international standard for safety, quality and governance. All three of the services the charity operates are registered with the Care Quality Commission.


The Children's Air Ambulance helicopter at Coventry Airport.

Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance was launched in 2003.[3] By 12 June 2004, it had already flown its 1,000th mission. Just over two years later, on 10 October 2006, they had completed 5,000 incidents.[4]

In 2008 the charity took over Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance, which had been struggling to raise funds.[5] The service now serves over 3,850sq miles. Less than a year after Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance became the sister service to Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance, it flew its 1,000th mission on 17 January 2009.

At the beginning of 2010, Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance flew its 10,000th mission.[6] The same year, the charity branched out into the charity retail sector, opening its first high street charity boutique in Rugby, Warwickshire.[7] The charity has since opened 30 other retail shops.

The charity also moved away from their offices at Coventry Airport in 2010, taking up residence in Princethorpe.

In 2011 the two air ambulance services were brought together under the umbrella name of The Air Ambulance Service. In July of the same year, they were registered with the Care Quality Commission.

In 2012 the service started independently employing their paramedics full-time. The charity also launched a national recycling scheme and launched the Children's Air Ambulance.[8]

As a further diversification of income, the charity launched an eBay selling site in 2013. On 12 May 2013 the Children's Air Ambulance carried out their first baby transfer.[9] Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland also flew its 5,000th mission on 5 June, following four years of service.

In October 2014, the Children's Air Ambulance carried out its 100th transfer.[10]

Funding and Strategy[edit]

The Air Ambulance Service is an independent charity which receives no government funding. It raises funds from the general public, corporate supporters, lotteries and trusts. The charity also operates a chain of 30 shops across the East Midlands and in north London.

In 2013, Service raised £11.1m to fund its services.[11]

In 2017 the Air Ambulance Service raised £20.5m to fund its services. In the same year they spent £6.0m on Charitable Activities (30% of spending). [11]

The charity is working to a new strategic plan covering the period 2015-2020. Its key strategic priorities are to continue to improve the quality of all its services and for the Children's Air Ambulance to be able to meet at least 90% of the demand for helicopter transfers between local hospitals and specialist paediatric centres.


In 2010, volunteers for The Air Ambulance Service announced they intended to 'resign in protest', and leave their roles, after the salaries of senior staff at the charity were disclosed. This happened again in 2013 when it was revealed that senior staff were paid up to £55,000, senior managers were paid up to £120,000 and the Chief Executive, Andy Williamson, was paid over £110,000. The volunteers felt these salaries were too high. The charity responded saying that the large salaries attracted the best staff, and therefore accounted for the charity's improved track record in fundraising and successful missions, and that Williamson was 'one of the most successful charity bosses in the UK.' [12][13]

In October 2012 the Police Aviation News magazine reported on the controversy surrounding the takeover by TAAS of TCAA. Criticisms include questioning whether a Children's Air Ambulance covering England and Wales is needed in the first place.[14]

In 2013, the head of the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance criticised the choice of name and fundraising tactics of TAA. Claiming that their name caused misunderstanding, with potential donors thinking that the Air Ambulance Service represents all UK air ambulance charities when it actually only represents three of them.[15][16]

In 2013, the BBC published an insight into the charity, with previous employees of the charity as sources. The article stated that several thousands of pounds were spent on hiring Anton du Beke and Erin Boag to give dance classes to staff as a reward. The source, a former fundraising manager, also said that funds raised were largely spent on 'the upkeep of the charity: salaries, cars, the recruitment of more and more senior personnel.' [17] And in some cases performance related bonuses.[18]

In 2013, complaints were made from residents on the Isle of Wight after they felt mislead donating textiles to TAA, mistakenly thinking they were for the local air ambulance. TAAS issued a statement saying that all its bags are always clearly marked with the destination for the donation.[19]

In March 2018 the charity was subject to allegations in The Times newspaper [20]-

See also[edit]


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  20. ^ Shingi Mararike, Jon Ungoed-Thomas and (2018-03-18). "The high life: Ascot junket and VIP service for air ambulance chief Andy Williamson". The Sunday Times. ISSN 0956-1382. Retrieved 2018-03-19.

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