Wiltshire Air Ambulance

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Wiltshire Air Ambulance
WAA Heli RRV.jpg
Wiltshire Air Ambulance's Helicopter and Rapid Response Vehicle
Legal statusRegistered charity
PurposeTreating and transporting critically ill patients to hospital
  • Outmarsh, Semington, Wiltshire, BA14 6JX
Region served
Royal Patron
The Duchess of Cornwall
Main organ
Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust
Websitewww.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk Edit this at Wikidata

Wiltshire Air Ambulance is a helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) serving Wiltshire and adjacent English counties.

It is run by Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust, a registered charity.[1]


The service was formed on 15 March 1990, as a joint venture between Wiltshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust and Wiltshire Police using a joint helicopter, based at police headquarters in Devizes.

The Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal, a registered charity, was set up to raise funds for Wiltshire Air Ambulance. It was run by Wiltshire Ambulance Service and later by Great Western Ambulance Service, which was the sole trustee.

In October 2011, the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust (WAACT) was formed to run Wiltshire Air Ambulance.[2] The new charity was independent of the ambulance service. The charity paid about £700,000 annually, a third of the operating cost, with Wiltshire Police paying the remainder. The collaboration with Wiltshire Police ended on 31 December 2014, due to the force joining the National Police Air Service.

On 9 January 2015, Wiltshire Air Ambulance began operations as a stand-alone air ambulance. Operating a dedicated air ambulance meant the charity needed to raise £3.25 million a year to cover costs.

The charity leased the Devizes airbase, while a new airbase and administrative headquarters were built at Outmarsh, between Melksham and Semington. The new site became fully operational in June 2018,[3] and was formally opened by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in December of that year.[4]

In January 2019, the charity's annual costs increased to around £3.75 million. The charity cited increased costs in NHS staffing, paramedic training, specialist medicines and painkilling drugs administered during emergencies."[5]


The helicopter in use is a Bell 429, the first of its type to operate as an air ambulance in the UK.[6] It has a top speed of 178 mph (155 kn; 286 km/h) and a maximum cruising speed of 173 mph (150 kn; 278 km/h), enabling it to reach anywhere in the county within 11 minutes.

The normal crew configuration is one pilot and two paramedics. The five pilots are employed by the charity,[7] while the paramedics are seconded from South Western Ambulance Service. The aircraft is fitted with an Aerolite medical interior. On board is all the kit found on a land ambulance, with extra specialist equipment, all paid for by donations.

The helicopter's registration number is G-WLTS, callsign Helimed 22. In 2018, the helicopter flew 494 missions, and the team responded to a further 609 incidents by road.[8]

The helicopter was out of service for over a month during summer 2018 as a technical failure was investigated.[9] Flight operations were also suspended for two weeks in August 2018 as the aircraft, vehicles and airbase buildings were examined to ensure no contamination resulting from the 2018 Amesbury poisonings was present. The aircraft did not respond to the poisonings as it was again grounded due to a technical failure, but there was concern that traces of Novichok agent may have been transferred onto equipment used by critical care paramedics who responded in rapid response vehicles.[10]

In early January 2019, the helicopter was grounded by a system failure, a situation further complicated by the entry into voluntary liquidation of Heli Charter, who supply the aircraft.[11][12] Medical provision continued to be provided by way of rapid response vehicles, before the service returned to flying on 11 January 2019 with the delivery of a temporary MD 902 supplied by Specialist Aviation Services, the same organisation which supplied the aircraft shared with Wiltshire Police until 2014.[13][14] The charity declared its intention to source its own Air Operator Certificate to allow it to operate the Bell 429 directly, but cautioned that this could not occur until the cause of the system failure had been established.[15]


WAACT charity raises money from several sources, including lotteries and raffles, collection tins, community fundraising, corporate fundraising, its Westbury and Devizes charity shops, and legacies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust. Registered Charity number 1144097
  2. ^ "Air ambulance set to become an independent charity". Wiltshire Times.
  3. ^ "Supporters thanked as Wiltshire Air Ambulance moves into new airbase". Melksham Independent News. 23 May 2018. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  4. ^ Pantall, Amy (17 December 2018). "A flying royal visit to open new airbase". The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  5. ^ Ambulance, Wiltshire Air. "Support Wiltshire Air Ambulance as Costs Rise by 15%". www.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  6. ^ "HeliHub Wiltshire Air Ambulance contracts for first EMS Bell 429 in UK".
  7. ^ Seaward, Tom (5 January 2019). "Wiltshire Air Ambulance helicopter hit by firm collapse had already been grounded over safety fears". Swindon Advertiser. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  8. ^ Grover, Alison (7 February 2019). "Total number of Wiltshire Air Ambulance missions rises by a quarter". The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  9. ^ "Wiltshire Air Ambulance Resumes Flying Operations". www.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk. 20 July 2018. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  10. ^ "Wiltshire Air Ambulance clear of Novichok after Amesbury Incident". spirefm. 14 August 2018. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Wiltshire Air Ambulance GROUNDED". spirefm. 4 January 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Wiltshire Air Ambulance grounded by Heli Charter liquidation". HeliHub. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  13. ^ "Wiltshire Air Ambulance to Resume Flying this Week". www.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk. 9 January 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  14. ^ "Aircraft G-WPAS Data". Airport-Data.com. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Keeping You Updated". www.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk. 16 January 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2019.

External links[edit]