Thames Valley Air Ambulance has unveiled its new helicopter, G-TVLY, purchased from Devon Air Ambulance earlier this year. The Airbus EC135T2+ will become the UK aeromedical charity's air ambulance when it acquires its own AOC and takes on its air operations shortly, replacing the H135 G-TVAL that was owned and operated by Babcock until September. The helicopter is kitted out with the same lifesaving equipment as the former model and will fly from its operations base at RAF Benson in South Oxfordshire.
Thames Valley Air Ambulance unveiled the helicopter at White Waltham airfield where it was founded 23 years ago, in the same month as the fourth anniversary of its move to become an independent healthcare provider.
"Our charity exists to give everybody in our community the best chance of surviving and recovering from an emergency. Every decision we make as charity has our critically ill and injured patients at its heart," says CEO Amanda McLean. “This next step in our evolution as an independent healthcare provider was necessary to ensure we can continue to deliver the absolute best critical care to the people we treat. They deserve the very best in their moment of need.”
Bringing the aviation operations in-house means Thames Valley Air Ambulance will be directly and legally responsible for all aspects of its operating approvals, and for the compliance and safety of the flight operations and the associated aircraft airworthiness management of the aircraft. This will give it the power and flexibility to make decisions about the aircraft based on its own data and working to its own timelines.
G-TVLY has a top speed of 135mph and, after take off, will continue to enable crews to reach any part of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire within 15 minutes. It has been modified to meet the needs of critical care including stripping out unnecessary weight, such as unused cabling, so the aircraft is lighter and more fuel efficient. It also has flight management computers with digital mapping, much like you would find in a car sat nav. Once airborne it requires an area the size of two tennis courts to land safely.
"Having our own helicopter is part of Thames Valley Air Ambulance's long term strategy to ensure we can continue to put patients at the heart of everything we do. This is an exciting milestone in the history of the charity and one which simply couldn't have happened without the support of the communities we serve," adds McLean.
Thames Valley Air Ambulance receives no regular government or National Lottery funding. On average it is called out seven times a day.