Bell 429 for Wiltshire air ambulance
Wiltshire Air Ambulance, January 07, 2014 - Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust (WAACT) today signed a 10-year contract in Swindon with Heli Charter Ltd for a new helicopter, which will come into service at the end of the year, when the lease on the current 12 year old aircraft expires.
After a great deal of deliberation over the last 18 months, the charity’s Trustees selected a Bell 429, which is the world’s newest and most advanced light twin-engine helicopter in service, equipped with the latest in flight technology. Prior to delivery the aircraft will be fitted out with the most recent Aerolite equipment to meet the highest helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) specification.
The Wiltshire helicopter will be the first Bell 429 to operate as an air ambulance in the UK. It has a top speed of 150 knots and a range of 400 miles making rapid response to any incident within the county achievable within minutes.
Starting in the late autumn of 2014, the contract with Heli Charter covers the provision, maintenance and flying of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance for up to 19 hours a day, every day of the year. It also includes a replacement helicopter to be provided after 5 years. Paramedics and other medical support will continue to be provided by South West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SWAST), with whom the Charity enjoys a close, efficient and effective working relationship.
The Charity spent nearly two years reviewing its options as soon as it became clear that the current partnership with Wiltshire Police would terminate, come what may, at the end of 2014, when they are mandated to use aircraft provided by the National Police Air Service.
With advice from consultants, three helicopter providers were shortlisted and invited to tender for the contract. Their submissions were subject to intensive scrutiny and assessment, which led to the selection of Heli Charter which is Bell’s UK agent.
The helicopter will be built in Mirabel, Canada in the first half of 2014 before being adapted to air ambulance configuration, which will make it capable of carrying one or two pilots, two or three paramedics as well as a patient on a stretcher. The autumn will see a period of testing and training for the crews in Wiltshire so that the new air ambulance is set to go live by 1 December 2014.
At the signing the contract on behalf of WAACT, its Chairman, Richard Youens said: ‘While the termination of our long standing association with the police is much to be regretted, it’s an ill wind that blows no good and we have taken the opportunity significantly to improve the quality of the service with state of the art equipment at a very competitive cost. Furthermore the new aircraft will be maintained on a rolling basis whereas the previous helicopter had to be taken off line for six weeks or more every year.
‘With the loss of our collaboration with the police we will need to fund the full cost of providing the air ambulance alone. However I can say with confidence that thanks to the passionate support the charity receives from so many people in Wiltshire, the necessary funds, about £2.5m annually, will be found.’
The National Grid took delivery of a Bell 429 last summer for their survey work and they are delighted with its performance and handling. The 429 is also already operating successfully as an air ambulance elsewhere in Europe and Canada and the charity is confident that it will provide Wiltshire with one of the best emergency service aircraft available anywhere in the world.
Heli Charter Chairman and CEO, Ken Wills said ‘Heli Charter is extremely proud and excited to have been awarded the contract with WAACT to provide the next generation of air ambulance to the people of Wiltshire. Heli Charter and the Trust have worked together to fully evaluate the Bell 429, which will serve the Trust well for the next ten years. It is the most advanced light medium twin helicopter available and is widely used globally as an Air Ambulance. We look forward to delivering the aircraft and being part of the team providing this essential service for the county.
”Customers throughout Europe are discovering the Bell 429 is the premiere light twin solution for a number of needs,” said Patrick Moulay, Bell Helicopter’s managing director of commercial sales for Europe. “We have a long heritage serving air ambulance customers throughout the world and are proud to be able to support the entire Wiltshire community.”
About Heli-Charter: Established more than twenty five years ago, Heli Charter provides a wide range of services, including operation of an extensive fleet of helicopters for charter, lease and private hire as well aircraft sales, maintenance and component overhaul.
In 2012 Heli Charter was appointed the Bell Helicopter Independent Representative for the UK which has enabled Heli Charter to work with Bell to place helicopters such as the Bell 429 into the UK. In 2013 Heli Charter was also appointed as a Bell Service Centre, which allows the company to further provide a greater dedication to current and future Bell owners.
During 2013 it also opened Sapphire House – a purpose built facility unlike any of its kind in the UK incorporating a maintenance hangar - the UK’s first ever purpose built luxury helicopter centre of excellence which is approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. In 2013 Heli Charter also opened a new facility a Turweston Aerodrome, Northamptonshire to further service the requirements of owners in the UK. This facility can undertake all aspects of helicopter maintenance.
The top team at Heli Charter includes Chairman and Chief Executive Mr Ken Wills, Commercial Director Gary Slater, Engineering Director Colin Bringer, Chief Operating Officer Stephen Purchase and Aircraft & Maintenance Sales Manager Elaine McCole-Slater.
About Bell Helicopter: Bell Helicopter, a wholly owned subsidiary of Textron Inc., is an industry-leading producer of commercial and military, manned and unmanned vertical-lift aircraft and the pioneer of the revolutionary tiltrotor aircraft. Globally recognized for world-class customer service, innovation and superior quality, Bell's global workforce serves customers flying Bell aircraft in more than 120 countries.
Bell 429 G-WLTS ( UK Air Ambulances )