Wales Air Ambulance has taken possession of the first of a new fleet of custom-built helicopters.
Providing coverage for the whole of South Wales, the advanced Airbus H145 model is the first of three helicopter upgrades being introduced this year, which will significantly enhance operations, the charity has said.
Wales Air Ambulance is the third HEMS (helicopter emergency medical service) operation in the UK to use the H145 aircraft. When all three new aircraft are operational the fleet, which is operated on behalf of the charity by Babcock Mission Critical Services Onshore, will be the largest in the UK.
The new arrival replaces the EC135 model which was introduced to South Wales in 2009.
Equipped with advanced night flying capability, the H145 moves the charity a step closer to its goal of providing a 24-hour air ambulance service.
The aircraft also has a larger cabin and more powerful engines, meaning there is extra room for treatments and the helicopters can fly longer without refueling.
Operations manager Mark Winter said, “The H145 is a significantly more advanced machine, meaning we can do so much more for the people we help.
“The cabin is larger and has more light, so we can access patients easily in-flight and have room for all our medical equipment.
“When we introduced the EC135 eight years ago we were excited it had a fourth seat for an additional medic or the parent of an injured child. Now we have five seats, which gives us even more scope for specialist medical passengers.
“One of the biggest differences is the H145’s night flying capability. The cockpit is set up for night vision technology. We have a weather radar, additional lights underneath and a ‘tracker light’ on the front, which is like a giant torch and incredibly powerful. These new features will make a difference to the work we can do after dark.”
Wales Air Ambulance chief executive Angela Hughes said, “The arrival of our first H145 marks a new era for Wales Air Ambulance. With continued fundraising this new aircraft will support our aim to progress to a 24-hour operation, so we can help anyone in their most difficult hour – whether that’s day or night.
“It’s thanks to the kind support we receive from volunteers and fundraisers that we have secured these incredible helicopters. Step by step we’re getting closer to becoming 24/7. By joining our Lifesaving Lottery or volunteering a few hours of time, we can make this a reality for everyone in Wales.”
Two more H145 helicopters will join Wales Air Ambulance in the coming months, replacing the charity’s HEMS aircraft based in Caernarfon and Welshpool.
Wales Air Ambulance’s fourth helicopter, dedicated to neonatal, paediatric and adult transfers across Wales, will remain an EC135 and operates from the charity’s base in Cardiff.
For more information on Wales Air Ambulance, visit walesairambulance.com.