New contract awarded for vital helicopters

THE East Anglian Air Ambulance is obtaining new aircraft which will enable the service to perform night flying and expand its life-saving skills.

The service has awarded the contract to operate the helicopters to Bond Air Services which stepped in to provide flying ambulances when EAAA’s previous operator, Stirling Aviation, was grounded by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Under the new agreement, the charity’s Cambridge Airport base will take delivery of an EC135 P2 aircraft in December and then, in July 2012, it will receive an EC135 T2e to upgrade the aircraft operating from Norwich Airport.

Two years on, in December 201,3 Cambridge will take on a larger EC145 T2 which can operate at faster speeds and cover longer distances.

The contract with Bond Air Services has been awarded for a seven year period.

Tim Page, EAAA chief executive, said: “We already operate a dawn-to-dusk service, bringing the skills of our highly trained crews to the sites of accidents and medical emergencies anywhere in the region in around 20 minutes.

“With the NHS increasingly reliant on a smaller number of specialist hospitals we’re also often being tasked to convey patients not just to the closest hosppital but to the hospital best suited to treat their condition.

“We are continually looking to enhance our service, however, and the capability of our new aircraft to fly at night represents a major opportunity to help people in our region in their hour of need, whenever that may occur.”

The air ambulance charity receives no direct government funding and operates its two aircraft every day of the year across Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. It is leasing the helicopters and pilots from Bond and the cost of this is included in the £4.2 million needed to operate the service each year,

Helicopters carry NHS doctors, including those from West Suffolk Hospital, who are highly trained in emergency medi cine and critcal care paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust.