WALES is set to have the biggest air ambulance operation in the UK, as its service launches a fourth helicopter, it has been announced.
And the Wales Air Ambulance Charity will operate its additional aircraft – an EC135 T2e – from a new base in Cardiff – its first-ever in the capital.
The extra helicopter will enable the charity to accept more missions to help save lives across the country.
Since its launch in 2001, it has completed 24,000 flights across the country. Its current fleet of three helicopters operates from bases in Llanelli, Caernarfon and Welshpool.
The Wales Air Ambulance is the official air ambulance operation in Wales, providing air cover for life-threatening, life-changing and time critical illness or injury.
Its medical crews, seconded from NHS Wales, provide pioneering treatments and work closely with all other official emergency agencies and hospitals in Wales.
During July it is being used for training. It will become operational within the Wales Air Ambulance fleet in August.
The charity receives no government funding. It relies on public donations to keep the helicopters flying. It needs to raise £6m annually to maintain its service.
Wales Air Ambulance Chief Executive Angela Hughes said: “It’s always been our vision to expand our fleet so we can help more patients, and to have a base in Cardiff. Although the city has a full transport infrastructure, its success as a commercial capital means air transfer to hospital can be the quickest way to convey patients.
“Subject to a successful six-month trial period, the fourth helicopter and its Cardiff satellite base will become a permanent new resource for the Wales Air Ambulance.
Wales Air Ambulance has been working with helicopter operator Babcock since its launch in 2001. Babcock provides the charity with custom-designed aircraft, experienced pilots and expert engineers. The fourth aircraft will be based at Cardiff Heliport.