The UK's Kent Air Ambulance Trust reports good progress in its hunt for a second helicopter. It is in negotiations with HEMS operators for a new generation MD902 or EC135 backed by a maintenance and pilot support package.
Operations manager John Tickner says: "The AOC for our current helicopter expires in December 2009 and we wanted a new helicopter package that would run to that date so we could then make a co-ordinated start to 2010. In December 2009 we expect to negotiate a single new contract for our complete operation."
He adds: "We are conscious that this relatively short initial contract for a new helicopter, an MD902
or EC135 or similar, is not ideal because of the investment level that is necessary from potential providers. Nevertheless we have received an encouraging response."
The trust would like its second helicopter to be in operation by 1 April 2007. It will be based initially at Dunsfold in Surrey before moving to a purpose-built airbase on the Surrey-west Sussex border.
The trust, which currently operates an MD902, is developing its range of services. Last November it moved away from a traditional air ambulance role towards the European trauma team concept of pre-hospital care. Doctors began flying as part of the medical crew taking accident and emergency services to the patient as well as transferring patients to hospital. The doctors also refer patients to the most appropriate specialist hospital.
A new helipad in Canterbury was officially opened last October on an open field immediately next door to the hospital. And the MD902 is fitted with a 12-lead portable ECG heart monitor.
Kent Air Ambulance is one of 16 independent air ambulance operators funded entirely by voluntary donations which meet the current #1.5 million costs.