Celebrating 20 years up in the sky

Sally Mills celebrates 20 years with Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

Sammy Wills, Yorkshire Air Ambulance’s (YAA) longest-serving HEMS Paramedic has celebrated her 20-year anniversary at the Charity.

Yorkshire Air Ambulance is a lifesaving rapid response emergency service serving five million people across 4 million acres of Yorkshire. Last year, the crew responded to more than 1,700 incidents across the region.

Sammy joined the Charity on 21st September 2002 when Yorkshire Air Ambulance was in its infancy, flying from Leeds Bradford Airport where the YAA base was a small Portakabin.

“When I started at Yorkshire Air Ambulance, no one recognised that we are a charity; they wouldn’t have thought to have put the two words together. Now we’re recognisable all over the world”, said Sammy.

First day on the job

Reliving her first day at the air ambulance, she said: “I finished my training on the Friday at Leeds Bradford Airport and the duty crew asked me if I had passed. Then they asked if I could do them a favour and swap my shift to work the next day. I remember my first job was a road traffic collision on a roundabout in Leeds and one of the occupants was heavily pregnant. Luckily, all the occupants were fine, and the pregnant lady was taken to hospital as a precaution. It was a gentle introduction to the HEMS world.”

Different helicopter models

Sammy is one of the only current YAA staff members to have experienced flying on all three models of YAA helicopters. “I have always loved aviation from being a kid and I have had the privilege of flying on every single air ambulance Yorkshire has had. Initially, we rented and now we own both our aircraft, which is a credit to the Charity. A lot has changed over the years; we have really enhanced the style of the aircraft and we have a lot more space to treat patients. The first thing I noticed when we upgraded to G-SASH and G-CEMS from our first Bolkow, was that the new helicopters didn’t smell like museum pieces! When I first flew G-PASG, it smelt like aircraft that you used to visit at a museum. It genuinely did smell of old aviation fuel and electrics.”

It is not only the helicopters that have changed over the past 20 years but also paramedics’ skillset and the equipment used on board. Yorkshire Air Ambulance is also celebrating their first year of having the largest female HEMS crew since the Charity’s inception. “At one point I was the only female crew member and now we’ve taken over a whole corner of the locker room,” Sammy jested.

The value of team working

Speaking of why she is proud to have worked at YAA for the last 20 years, Sammy said, “Because it’s a privilege to help people on the worst day of their lives and support them with the state-of-the-art aircraft and clinical training and with the best Critical Care Team available, alongside the colleagues who you have total faith in, and do your very best as a complete team. It’s not just about getting there fast or flying them quickly to the hospital, it’s the team that works together, drills together, eats together and plays together that helps that individual or whole families by performing together on the job.”

Sammy’s 20 years at Yorkshire Air Ambulance isn’t her only milestone this year; in January 2023 she will also celebrate 30 years of being a Paramedic at Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

Peter Sunderland, Chairman of Yorkshire Air Ambulance, said: “We would like to congratulate Sammy and express our huge gratitude and thanks for her 20 years of dedication to our Charity. Sammy’s enthusiasm for her role never falters and she is an asset to our crew and a firm part of the greater YAA family.”