Towards the end of September, the Top Flight Helicopters team had the chance to land at the Wiltshire Air Ambulance helipad. Top Flight Helicopters where welcomed with open arms to visit their facility in Devizes and state of the art Bell 429 helicopter based there. Below is a bit about what we learned from Wiltshire Air Ambulance about their crew, aircraft and role.
The Helicopter and Crew
Since January 2015 the Wiltshire Air Ambulance has operated as a standalone Air Ambulance, previously it worked alongside the Police sharing an aircraft. Their new helicopter is a Bell 429 and is the first Bell 429 to be operated as an air ambulance in the UK.
It has a top speed of 155 knots (178mph) and a cruising speed of 150 knots (173mph). The cabin can accommodate a pilot, two paramedics, one patient, and a passenger where appropriate.
The aircraft is fitted with a specially designed medical interior. The 429 is kitted out with everything you would find on a land ambulance, with extra specialist equipment to enable the Wiltshire Air Ambulance crew to provide the best medical care possible. This doesn’t just involve getting the patient to the hospital quickly it also provides bringing a “mobile A&E” to the patient.
The air ambulance flies up to 19 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Wiltshire Air Ambulance is fitted with a searchlights and, when flying at night, the aircrew use the Night Vision Goggles to operate. All flights are conducted under single pilot operations, however, the front seat paramedic is a trained technical crew member who is able to assist the pilot wherever necessary. The pilots also need to hold Instrument Ratings to fly for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance.
The Wiltshire Air Ambulance is the only air ambulance locally able to operate on a fully ad hoc basis at night. Other counties will only land at pre surveyed locations, this means the patient will only receive 50% of the air ambulances capabilities, as the paramedics don’t get to the scene of the accident where the critical intervention is so important. Therefore, particularly at night, the Wiltshire Air Ambulance often operates to out of county locations to provide support to neighbouring counties.
The role of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance is to support the NHS and enhance the cover of critical care paramedics over the county and get them to the scene of accidents, in order to give the right intervention fast. The Wiltshire Air Ambulance then takes the patient to a local trauma centre, due to the positioning of the helicopter the paramedics have a choice of trauma centres to fly to depending on the patient’s requirements.
The Wiltshire Air Ambulance are centrally located between The John Radcliffe in Oxford, Southampton General and Southmead Hospital in Bristol. From their location in Devizes it would take a land ambulance over 45 minutes to get to the nearest hospital, even on blue lights.
Top Flight Helicopters would like to say a huge thank you to the Wiltshire Air Ambulance team, particularly, Kevin and Rob for hosting us on the day. It’s not every day you are able to land somewhere like the Wiltshire Air Ambulance helipad!
Click HERE to watch a video of G-WLTS taking-off during our visit!