Devon Air Ambulance prides itself on being a dynamic and forward-thinking charity, committed to providing the very best patient care and ensuring the service continues to grow and improve. The exciting next step in this development took place on 16 August, with the purchase of a new Airbus H145 helicopter, which will be on duty from the service’s Exeter airbase from mid-2020. The contract was signed at Sidmouth RFC’s training ground in Sidford, chosen as it is only a few miles away from Sidbury, where Devon Air Ambulance’s founder Ann Ralli and her family lived.
Ann set up the Devon Air Ambulance charity after her son Ceri died, due to injuries sustained when knocked from his bicycle. Ann asked at hospital what could have saved her son, and was told the quicker a patient receives urgent medical treatment, the better their chance of survival. Ann didn’t want any other family to go through what hers had.
The existing helicopter, which is already ‘night flight ready’ and operates up until midnight every day, will replace the charity’s older aircraft, currently flying from its North Devon airbase, near Umberleigh.
Heléna Holt, CEO of Devon Air Ambulance, said “We aim to replace our helicopters, on average, every 10 years. We have undertaken extensive research into what would be the best helicopter to meet our current, and future, operational needs. We are fortunate that we have some extremely knowledgeable flight operations and clinical staff, who have been fully engaged over the past 18 months looking at all the options available to us, not only for the airframe itself, but also the state-of-the-art interior and medical equipment we can carry.
“The H145 has significantly more accessible cabin space than our current EC135s and this extra size gives us greater capacity and flexibility as we continue to enhance the service we can offer to our patients.
“An added benefit is that our existing Exeter aircraft will move to work out of our North Devon airbase, thereby meaning that both our aircraft will be capable of flying into the hours of darkness when we look to extending this part of our service.”
Devon Air Ambulance owns its current two aircraft. The new aircraft purchase will cost in the region of €8.5m, but this will be offset by the onward sale of the older helicopter, G-DVAA.
Ian Payne, Flight Operations Director for Devon Air Ambulance, added, “We are looking forward to welcoming the H145, registration G-DAAS, in 2020. A successful, mature product, H145 is manufactured by the same organisation as our EC135s so in addition to operational performance we will be able to build further upon the strong working relationship with Airbus developed over many years. As a result, there are clear opportunities for future fleet harmonisation bringing efficiencies in operational planning, logistic and engineering support, training and aircraft safety.”