The East Anglian Air Ambulance
The appeal was launched for the region to have a dedicated medical helicopter in the year 2000 by professional jockey Frankie Detorri, who was involved in a light aircraft crash in June of 2000 on his way to the Goodwood festival, because there was no medical helicopter serving in the area at that time another light aircraft had to fly the casualties into Addenbrooke’s Hospital. The chairman of the East Anglian NHS Ambulance trust which who at the time was Andrew Egerton-Smith thought of the advantages that a Helicopter would make to the region and agreed then to be the chairman of the trustees for the new Charity.
Fundraising started in August 2000 and by December 2000 the charity celebrated its first big achievement, they had raised enough money to fly a one day a week flying medical service with a Bolkow BO-105 helicopter which was contracted with Sterling Aviation and was based at Norwich airport with the callsign of ‘Anglia one’ it would start by flying its one day a week service on a Friday.By March 2001 the fundraising had increased so much that the helicopter could operate on a five day week and by July the Charity was operating on a seven day week and was kept busy with on average four missions a day. When March of 2003 arrived the support kept growing and growing for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, in November 2004 their was a Helipad made especially for the Air Ambulance at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.
In June 2005 fundraising had climbed so much that the East Anglian Air Ambulance could buy a new helicopter they brought the BK-117 which again the helicopter was with Sterling Aviation, in January of 2006 the new helicopter was delivered to Norwich airport where it underwent a medical refit of stretcher’s heart monitors, and got its new yellow livery and she came into service as G-OEMT (Anglia One).
(G-OEMT is seen making a pass at the Lowestoft Airshow)
In April of 2007 an appeal for fundraising was made so that the East Anglian Air Ambulance would be able to extend its area of medical coverage to Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire with a new helicopter which would be named Anglia two, just four months later the East Anglian Air Ambulance was operational with another BK-117 that would cover the Bedford and Cambridge area for five days a week and would be registered as G-RESC.
(G-RESC is seen on its way back to Cambridge after being called on a mission)
With successful fundraising buy the Lynn News in December a helipad was made for the East Anglian Air Ambulance at the Queen Elizabeth II hospital in King’s Lynne. August of 2008 David Jason had a visit to see Anglia one at Norwich airport and agreed to be the patron of the Air Ambulance Association, In October Marshalls Cambridge offered the East Anglian Air Ambulance a permanent base for Anglia two, towards the end of 2008 Anglia two celebrated becoming a seven day week service.
In July of 2009 a team of critical care paramedics were appointed to work solely on the helicopters, when 2010 arrived the East Anglian Air Ambulance celebrated its 10th Anniversary but by 2011 the charity took a big step and changed operators from Sterling Aviation to BOND air services, they flew red BO-105’s for a short time before switching back to the famous yellow colour when they took delivery of there first EC135 helicopters they have had a total of four EC135’s:
- G-SPHU (HU) EC135 T2 (was only with the East Anglian Air Ambulance for a short amount of time and wasn’t fully marked in the EAAA’s markings it just had the charity written in the side)
- G-CGXK (XK) EC135 T1 (This EC135 was based at Norwich Airport but was replaced by G-CGZD after the arrival of G-HEMN at Cambridge)
- G-CGZD (ZD) EC135 P2 (G-CGZD is now based at Norwich Airport where it took over G-CGXK and this helicopter was replaced by G-HEMN at Cambridge)
- G-HEMN (MN) EC-135 T2e
The East Anglian Air Ambulance’s current helicopters are two EC135’s G-CGZD (ZD) an EC135 P2 and G-HEMN (MN) an EC135 T2e both helicopters cover the Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire area.
On July 30th 2013 I had the opportunity to travel to Marshalls Cambridge to speak to Captain Chris Sherriff and take a tour around G-HEMN the newest arrival to the East Anglian Air Ambulance. The East Anglian Air Ambulance was the first to serve at night in England and Wales. When speaking to Captain Chris Sherriff I asked him how the night capability has helped the East Anglian Air Ambulance and he replied by saying “To put it into perspective today there are five helicopters online within East Anglia all with doctor and paramedic on-board and at some point throughout the day we will be the only one available so all of a sudden our area of coverage changes from a 10-15 minute flight from around the Cambridge airport to suddenly the whole of East Anglia and to put that into perspective it takes us about 35 minutes to get to some places on the North Norfolk coast” I also asked him how fast the helicopter can fly which he replied by saying “We can get up too about 135 knots”.
With this helicopter being night capable I asked Captain Sherriff what equipment the helicopter has to help the pilot and his crew too for-fill its night mission he said “We have a power line detection system which is the big aerial at the front of the helicopter which detects electrical current running through power lines also we have Power line mapping which shows us the 11 kv cables and the big high voltage metal lines it won’t tell us were the cables are but it will warn us that there are cables in the surrounding area which helps us try and find a safe landing spot” he also went onto say “ We also use the Tracker search light on the front of the helicopter to illuminate objects, we also use NVG’s (Night Vision goggles) which clip on to a mount on our helmets and all the dials are fitted with NVG filters which is a essential in a Night capable aircraft or any kind”.
Here you can see the tracker search light that is located on the front of the helicopter.
I also asked does the helicopter have any limitation, which Captain Chris Sherriff replied by saying “Yes the helicopter can’t fly in very very low cloud also fog and if the freezing condition is low we can’t fly on instruments”.
I then asked Captain Sherriff how much does is cost for the East Anglian Air Ambulance to fly the helicopter he said “That’s quite a difficult one to answer because with an air ambulance it spends most of the time on the ground but the fixed cost for it being there serviceable with a pilot will cost around about £2000 a day and then the charity would pay a subsequent cost to fly her” he then went on to say “If you wanted to hire one of these for commercial use it would cost you around about £2,500 per flying hour”.
Then I asked Captain Sherriff how the Norwich EC-135 (G-CGZD) compares to the night capable helicopter here at Cambridge now in which he replied saying “Well it’s a new helicopter so everything’s that much tighter it’s just like a new car things haven’t worn in properly yet”.
The East Anglian Air Ambulance is going to be taking delivery of a new Helicopter in near future I asked the East Anglian Air Ambulance about this and they said we will be taking delivery of an EC-145 which is a slightly bigger helicopter than the current EC-135P2 and T2e and will be night capable as well, once this new helicopter is received G-HEMN will move from Cambridge Airport to Norwich Airport and G-CGZD will move on to another airbase to either carry on its medical role or another job.
I would like to thank Helen Dodman for making the trip possible and Captain Chris Sherriff for talking to me about the helicopter and answering all my questions.