Great Western Air Ambulance launches campaign for new helicopter
The charity behind the air ambulance which covers Bristol has launched a campaign to replace it with a newer, faster model.
The news comes as a deal was announced this morning which will see the air ambulance staying at Filton Airfield.
BAE Systems says it will dedicate an area of Filton Airfield to the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity after the closure of the airfield in December.
The charity is launching its fundraising campaign next month for a new helicopter.
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It wants to replace its Bolkow 105 helicopter - which was designed in 1968 - with a more up-to-date Eurocopter 135.
The helicopter will be leased, but the charity is hoping to raise £250,000 within the next year to help fund it.
The charity's spokesman Daniel Thomas said: "The new helicopter will be larger and more capable. At the moment we are flying a relic of the Cold War.
"This will mean upgrading to the next generation of aircraft - the new helicopter will be bigger, faster and will get to patients more quickly. It will be about four minutes faster in getting to patients, in fact.
"A lot can change in four minutes."
The campaign will be launched on July 17.
A statement from BAE Systems was released today - as the charity was due to speak out at a public inquiry into South Gloucestershire Council’s development blueprint for the district.
They had been promised a site on the airfield but confirmation of this had failed to materialise, until this morning.
BAE Systems, Great Western Air Ambulance and the police have now signed an initial statement of common ground, paving the way for further discussions on the proposals to maintain the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity and police helicopter on site.
Because of the development of the airfield, BAE Systems says it is unlikely the helicopter operations will remain in their existing location.
But an area has been identified inside the airfield boundary for them to use instead.
In the short-term, both organisations have been given a lease extension to March 2014.
Mike Craddock, BAE Systems’ real estate manager said: “I am delighted we have been able to agree common ground today.
“BAE Systems recognises the importance of the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity and Police Western Counties Air Operation Unit and is working closely with both organisations to enable them to continue to operate from within the current airfield boundary.”
Great Western Air Ambulance chief executive John Christensen said: "The agreement we have reached this evening with BAE Systems represents nothing less than the future of the air ambulance.
"It means the continuation of a life-saving service to the people of this region.
"We have from the start maintained there is no alternative to Filton for us. For that reason we remain extremely grateful to BAE Systems.
"We now look forward to working together - to make the plans become a reality."