Calderdale’s helicopter heroes are flying higher than ever in 11th year

Company photo at Yorkshire Air Ambulance, Cayley House, South Lane, Elland
Company photo at Yorkshire Air Ambulance, Cayley House, South Lane, Elland

WITH 3,855 rescues and a hit TV series under its belt, it’s fair to say that Yorkshire Air Ambulance is flying higher than ever.

The independent charity has been providing a life-saving rapid response emergency service to 5 million people across Yorkshire for more than a decade.

Yorkshire Air Ambulance's two helicopters in flight

Yorkshire Air Ambulance's two helicopters in flight

Its experienced crew flies seven days a week, 365 days a year, covering the region’s 4 million acres that include rural and isolated locations and densely-populated cities and major motorways.

Founded in 2000, Yorkshire Air Ambulance is one of the only dedicated air desks in the UK.

It hit the headlines in 2006 with the high profile rescue of Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond after his dramatic 288mph jet car crash at the Elvington airfield in York.

Donations poured in from his grateful fans afterwards, raising more than £250,000 towards a second air ambulance, which was bought in October 2007.

Both choppers are MD902 Explorers and have state-of-the-art medical and helicopter specification. Each can reach speeds of up to 160mph – covering two miles per minute.

The swift medical interventions provided by the air ambulance crews have a major impact on a patient’s chance of survival and their quality of life afterwards.

Based at either Leeds Bradford International Airport or Bagby airfield, near Thirsk, the crew is made up of highly-skilled paramedics, pilots, doctors and dispatchers.

The pilots are highly experienced helicopter specialists with many years of flying experience, enabling them to land in some of the most remote locations across the region.

Paramedics are provided by the the Yorkshire Ambulance Service and are all fully trained in Helicopter Medical Emergency Service.

Behind the scenes, but every bit as crucial, is the small team based at the charity’s headquarters in Elland.

Staff moved to the former mill building off South Lane in January 2010 from their old base at Dean Clough in Halifax.

Their vital work ranges from attending and supporting fundraising events around the region to essential management jobs within the office.

The new HQ is better known as Cayley House, named in honour of Sir George Cayley.

The Yorkshireman, from Scarborough, is described as the ‘father of aerial navigation’ and pioneered the understanding of the principles of flight.

The work of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance has been well-respected and appreciated by people across the region from the very beginning.

But since 2007, it has also attracted national and international attention with its crews starring in the popular BBC 1 documentary series Helicopter Heroes.

After making a remarkable recovery from his crash, Hammond fronted the first series of the show, which is now presented by Crimewatch’s Rav Wilding.

A member of the BBC team flies with the air ambulance crew on every mission, and the entire TV production team is based in the hangar at Leeds Bradford International Airport.

The fifth series is currently being produced and is due to air in September.

The programme, which has attracted fan mail from as far away as Australia, has given a valuable boost to the charity’s profile and coffers.

Helicopter Heroes has without a doubt been a fantastic hit, not only for the YAA, but also for other air ambulances in the UK,” said charity spokeswoman Abby McClymont.

“We hope that this has helped to heighten the profile of other air ambulance charities too and assisted them in their fundraising efforts.”

The charity needs to raise £7,200 per day to keep both of its air ambulances maintained and in the air – a total of more than £2.6 million every year.

“The generosity that we receive is the lifeblood of the charity and without this generosity, we would not be able to provide the service that we are so proud of,” said Abby.

l To find out how you can donate to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, or for more information about the charity, visit