Wiltshire Air Ambulance
|Legal status||Registered charity|
|Purpose||Treating and transporting critically ill patients to hospital|
|Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust|
Wiltshire Air Ambulance is an essential helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS), primarily for the people of Wiltshire and adjacent counties and those passing through the county.
It is run by Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust, a registered charity (1).
The service was formed on March 15, 1990 as a joint venture between Wiltshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust and Wiltshire Constabulary 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 followed by Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS). GWAS was the sole trustee of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal.
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 a third of the cost of the joint helicopter with Wiltshire Police paying the remaining two thirds. For the charity, this amounted to about £700,000 a year.
The collaboration with Wiltshire Police ended on December 31, 2014 due to Wiltshire Police joining the National Police Air Service.
On January 9, 2015 Wiltshire Air Ambulance began operations as a stand-alone air ambulance. Operating a dedicated air ambulance means the costs are higher and the charity needs to raise £2.5 million a year (3). WAACT signed a lease with Wiltshire Police enabling the air ambulance to be based at Wiltshire Police's Headquarters in Devizes until December 31, 2017, while the charity finds a site to build a new home housing the helicopter, aircrew and charity team.
The helicopter is a Bell 429 and is the first of its type to operate as an air ambulance in the UK (4). It is one of the most advanced light twin helicopters ever developed, offering exceptional flight performance, low operating cost and proven reliability (5).
WAACT leases the Bell 429 from Heli Charter (6), Bell's UK agent, with whom it has a 10-year contract.
It has a top speed of 180 mph (156 knots) and a maximum cruising speed of 173 mph (150 knots). It can reach anywhere in the county within 11 minutes.
The normal crew configuration is one pilot and two paramedics. The pilots are employed by Heli Charter and the paramedics are employed by South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and seconded to Wiltshire Air Ambulance.
The aircraft is fitted with an Aerolite medical interior. On board there is all the kit you would find on a land ambulance, with extra specialist equipment all paid for by donations.
On average the helicopter is called out 2-3 times a day and flies up to 19 hours a day.
Its registration number is G-WLTS and call sign is Helimed22.
WAACT charity raises money from several different sources. This includes its lotteries, textile recycling, collection tins, community fundraising, corporate fundraising, the Westbury charity shop and legacies.
1. Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust. Registered Charity number 1144097.
5. Bell Helicopter, www.BellHelicopter.com
6. Heli Charter, www.helicharter-uk.com