Yorkshire Air Ambulance to get vital £15m upgrades to existing helicopter fleet

The Yorkshire Air Ambulance charity will upgrade its helicopter fleet within the next two years after announcing the arrival of two new state-of-the-art aircraft.

By Ian Hirst
Monday, 17th May 2021, 1:44 pm
Updated Monday, 17th May 2021, 1:46 pm

The two Airbus H145 D2 choppers, which entered service only in 2016, will be replaced by a five-bladed ‘‘next generation’’ D3 model – and the charity will be the first operator in the UK to take delivery of them. They will arrive by the summer of 2023 and G-YAAC and G-YOAA will be sold.

Aviation director Steve Waudby said: “Our two current helicopters have served us well and will continue to do so for another few years. However, the typical effective lifespan of an air ambulance is between seven to 10 year so we are placing a timely order now for delivery in 2023, whilst taking advantage of early Airbus production line slots, as this helicopter has become very popular within the air ambulance community.

"There have also been a lot of advancements made to the H145 since we bought our current aircraft – both technically in the cockpit, and medically with regards to the equipment we carry.

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The existing Yorkshire Air Ambulance fleet

"We had the choice to look at retrospectively fitting these technological advancements or upgrading to brand-new helicopters that include everything as part of their specification.

"Given the complexities of helicopter mechanics, we would have also faced a longer lead time with having everything retrospectively fitted rather than buying new, so it was sensible for the Charity to upgrade the helicopters for new ones.”

The first of the two new helicopters is expected to arrive in Yorkshire in Spring 2023, with the second following shortly after in Summer 2023.

Mr Waudby added: “If we had taken the decision to retrospectively fit all the extra technology and equipment we needed, by the time that had been completed we’d have been at a point where we would have been starting to look at replacing our current helicopters.

"Bringing our plans forward by a year or two means we get best value, as well as bringing two even better state-of-the-art helicopters to the people of Yorkshire.”

Advancements to the new model includes a five-bladed rotor head which will provide a smoother flight for the crew and patients, on board Wi-Fi to allow patient records to be updated inflight, and a cutting-edge secure communications system which will allow the crew to send patient data ahead to their destination hospital, allowing doctors and nurses to start evaluating and assessing the patient before they arrive.

There will also be an improved medical fit alongside some of the most advanced and innovative equipment for treating patients at scene and in-flight.

Peter Sunderland, Chairman of the YAA said: “We are delighted to be able to announce our plans for these new helicopters.

"The H145 has become the most popular new aircraft globally and we are very much looking forward to welcoming the two new models to Yorkshire in Spring and Summer of 2023.

"Our current H145 D2 helicopters have served us well, so there was no question about considering other makes or models – it is fast becoming the air-ambulance helicopter of choice within the air ambulance sector.

“We have been financially planning for these replacements since G-YAAC and G-YOAA commenced their operations in 2016 and with prudent, planned savings, careful budgeting, and building our reserves we are now in a position to move forward.

"This has only been made possible through the generosity of individuals, groups, businesses and organisations whose support is so gratefully received. Our aim has always been to provide the people of Yorkshire and its visitors with the best possible air ambulance service, and by upgrading our helicopters in 2023 we can continue to ensure we are futureproofing and modernising our operations and service delivery.”

The new helicopters, complete with full medical fit out, will cost approximately £15.3M which is being funded through careful financial planning and reserves.

Current aircraft G-YAAC and G-YOAA will be sold to offset some of these costs.