Sky's the limit for state-of-the-art new £30m Northamptonshire air ambulance helicopters

The air ambulances will go into service this week

By Alison Bagley
Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 10:00 am

Two new state-of-the-art air ambulances that will serve Northamptonshire will take to the skies this week as they are brought into service following their launch at Sywell Aerodrome.

With their every second counts lifesaving skills the Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance (WNAA) and the Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) will become the next generation craft for The Air Ambulance Service (TAAS).

The launch represents a substantial investment of more than £30 million by the charity over the next seven years and is the culmination of an 18-month project to modernise and replace the current helicopters.

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The state-of-the-art Leonardo AW109 GrandNew EMS helicopter.

Launched at Sywell Aerodrome, home of aircraft provider and project partner Sloane Helicopters Limited, the new machines will be based at their respective homes at East Midlands Airport for DLRAA and Coventry Airport for WNAA.

TAAS CEO Andy Williamson said: “These wonderful new aircraft are the culmination of a lot of hard work by our supporters, the charity and our stakeholders and I am very proud to see it come to fruition and of all those involved in making the dream a reality.

“The difference the charity’s two new helicopters will make to the tens of thousands of lives they will touch, directly or indirectly, over the next seven years is very significant and that’s what this charity is all about.

“For us now though the hard work really begins.

"Our crews are available, 24/7, 365 days a year but we need the support of the public more than ever before so we can continue to deliver our lifesaving, frontline critical care.”

The new helicopters that will enable the charity to continue its important work in supporting the NHS frontline across the Midlands.

And now the charity is calling on the communities the aircrafts serve to show their support as the charity builds on the 42,000 plus missions it has attended since its launch in 2003.

Following an exhaustive tender process to determine which helicopters would best meet the needs of clinicians and patients, TAAS opted for a like-for-like replacement in Leonardo’s latest AW109 GrandNew to replace the ageing fleet.

The new AW109 derivative was chosen for its proven performance as the world’s fastest commercial twin-engine helicopter but also its ability to start-up and shut-down engines in a much shorter time than many of its competitors.

These seconds and minutes saved can often be vital in terms of the delivering lifesaving critical care medicine to patients.

Enhanced technology and navigation, and an increase in weight carrying capability were all key factors in selecting the AW109.

Being able to carry four crew and a patient ensures the charity will also be able to support the NHS by offering training opportunities for Pre Hospital Emergency Medicine (PHEM) doctors.

The new helicopters, which will be crewed by a pilot, doctor and critical care paramedic, offer an improved clinical area for the crews to work in while caring for a patient which includes a new syringe pump system as well as better storage solutions for vital lifesaving equipment such as a defibrillator, ventilator, ultrasound and other vital medical equipment.

TAAS director of operations Richard Clayton, who led the project team, said: “What a monumental day for the charity. It’s been a complex project over the past 18 months, especially given the global pandemic, but now the exciting work really starts.

“We’re very proud to launch our new aircraft and look forward to continuing to work closely with our NHS partners, East Midlands Ambulance Service and West Midlands Ambulance Service, to provide critical care to patients wherever it is needed the most.

“Our fantastic, state-of-the-art new aircraft enable us to get to our patients as quickly and as safely as possible, and often time saved can mean a life saved. They also enable us to continue to support vital training for the next generation of NHS PHEM doctors.

“I would like to thank everyone who have helped deliver this complex project in record time, and would especially like to single out Sloane Helicopters for their commitment despite the significant challenges encountered with the project due to the global pandemic over the past 12 months.”

The introduction of the new aircraft has been welcomed by partners in EMAS and WMAS.

Anthony Marsh, WMAS chief executive, said: "We are delighted to hear about the arrival of the new Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance. Our work with The Air Ambulance Service means that advanced critical care paramedics and doctors are available to our crews, which can only benefit the care provided to our patients.

“The evidence is clear in cases such as major trauma and cardiac arrests that having advanced clinical care at the scene of the incident and the potential for rapid onward transit to specialist hospitals by air ambulance, can dramatically increase the chances of the patient not only surviving but going on to recover well and have a good quality of life.”

The aircraft will be leased over the next seven years from Sloane Helicopters and are the latest to come online through this successful partnership.

Jeremy Awenat, managing director of Sloane Helicopters, said: “As a supporter and operator of the WNAA and DLRAA since the former’s inception in 2003, we are delighted to supply the charity with two, new, state-of-the-art Leonardo AW109 GrandNew EMS helicopters.

“The AW109 GrandNew is the benchmark aircraft in its category, in terms of performance, speed and safety standards, making it the ideal helicopter for air ambulance operations.

“Introducing these aircraft into service further strengthens our longstanding partnership with the charity spanning over 18 years. Furthermore, the engineering team at Sloane has provided an excellent service in preparing the helicopters, during this period of lockdown, by incorporating numerous clinical and operational modifications to ensure that the best clinical outcomes are achieved.”

Both aircraft were built in Italy by Leonardo before embarking on the lengthy journey to the UK where Sloane fitted the aircraft with clinical interiors.

Jacopo Borghi, head of region (UK & Ireland) Helicopter Global Sales at Leonardo, said: “Leonardo is proud to be supporting the lifesaving missions of The Air Ambulance Service with the addition of two AW109 GrandNew helicopters to its fleet, delivered through Sloane Helicopters.

“The introduction of these helicopters extends our long-standing relationship with the charity since its HEMS operations commenced in 2003. The new aircraft further enhance and future proof the charity’s operations with its sophisticated avionics suite with full Performance Based Navigation compliance.

"The combination of a rapid start take-off, best performance, and the lowest carbon emissions in its class ensure the AW109 GrandNew is the fastest helicopter to the scene, enabling

The Air Ambulance Service to reach its patients quickly, safely, and efficiently.”

Anyone wishing to find out more about the lifesaving work of the charity can call 0300 3045 999 or visit

With an average cost of £1,700 per mission, the WNAA charity does not receive funding from the government or National Lottery and relies entirely on voluntary donations and support from communities and business.

History of the WNAA

2002 - Malcom Hazel formed the charity under the name Princess Diana National Air Ambulance for Warwickshire and Northamptonshire,

2003 - The service started flying with a helicopter leased from Sloane Helicopters. Doctors volunteered to regularly crew the aircraft, outside of their NHS working hours. Princess Diana Air Ambulance was removed and the service became Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance. WNAA leased two Rapid Response Vehicles (RRV) that supported the aircraft if it was unable to fly. Paramedics were seconded from NHS ambulance services and responded using RRVs.

2007 - By its third birthday, WNAA began to provide lifesaving services 365 days a year.

2011 - The charity brought together the two air ambulance services together under The Air Ambulance (TAAS) umbrella. TAAS took over the Children’s Air Ambulance and promised to have the service flying by the end of 2012. Registered with the Care Quality Commission as an independent provider. G-HEMZ started service at DLRAA.

2020: A total of41,982 missions were reached across Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland service with the Children's Air Ambulance completing 583 Missions. The charity now has 55 charity shops.