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Wiltshire Police Federation

Replacement air ambulance will be flying from Friday

9 January 2019

Wiltshire Times

WILTSHIRE Air Ambulance will be continuing flying operations with a back up helicopter from Friday, after their helicopter was grounded earlier in the week when the company operating it went bust.

The collapse on Thursday of Kent firm Heli Charter, which operates the Semington charity’s Bell 429 helicopter, meant that the charity was unable to use the aircraft for the week.

Due to a contingency arrangement with Specialist Aviation Services, a back-up MD 902 helicopter will be available for day flying between 8am and 6pm, seven days a week, for the foreseeable future.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance chief executive David Philpott said: “Specialist Aviation Services is a company we’ve enjoyed an excellent working relationship with for nearly 30 years and we’re very pleased that they’ve been able to move so fast to get us back in the air.

“The MD 902 is a helicopter the charity has used in the past and, following its arrival on Friday, we will be back flying for the people of Wiltshire and surrounding areas.

“I want to thank those well-wishers and supporters who have offered their support and redoubled their fundraising efforts for the charity since our Bell 429 was grounded last week.”

A spokesman for the air ambulance said the charity was applying for its own Air Operator Certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority, covering the organisation to run the original helicopter directly. It is not known how long this will take.

With the contingency plan in operation from Friday, the charity will continue working behind the scenes on a replacement Air Operator Certificate.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s five pilots are already employed directly by the charity and have not been affected by Heli Charter going into voluntary liquidation.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance attended 871 incidents last year, taking on average 11 minutes to reach the emergency calls.

Last year, the helicopter was plagued with issues that saw it put out of action for weeks over the summer.

In June, the Bell 429 aircraft was grounded after it spun out of control during an engine test. It was kept out of the skies for over a month while replacement parts were sourced.

The helicopter was grounded again in August, as army specialists checked the aircraft for traces of nerve agent Novichok. It was believed paramedics who went to treat poisoning victims Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley had later flown in the helicopter.