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Wiltshire Air Ambulance Friends Scheme gets off to a flying start

High Sheriff of Wiltshire, William Wyldbore-Smith, receiving his Friends membership pack during his visit to the Air Support Unit, Devizes.

High Sheriff of Wiltshire, William Wyldbore-Smith, receiving his Friends membership pack during his visit to the Air Support Unit, Devizes.

A NEW initiative to secure long-term funding for Wiltshire Air Ambulance has got off to a flying start, with more than 100 ‘Friends’ signing up to support the charity well into the future.

The Friends of Wiltshire Air Ambulance was launched in August 2013. From just £2 per month, people can make a regular gift to the life-saving charity which is then used to help purchase equipment or kit for the helicopter, provide additional training for the air ambulance paramedics or fund essential items such as aviation fuel.

One of the air ambulance’s first Friends was the High Sheriff of Wiltshire, William Wyldbore-Smith, who visited the Air Support Unit at Devizes in August last year. He said, “I was delighted to see that Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust had felt confident to recently contract for a new helicopter, thereby securing this vital emergency resource for the county.

“Whenever I open a local paper, I read of community projects raising money for the Trust which is so encouraging.  I am pleased that the charity has passed the 100 Friends mark, but it needs many more as that is the best way of securing core revenue.  So well done, and here’s to the next 100 Friends and many more.”

Wiltshire Air Ambulance recently signed a major 10-year contract with Helicharter to supply a new state-of-the-art Bell 429 helicopter which will come into service at the end of 2014, when the lease on the current 12-year-old aircraft expires and the current partnership with Wiltshire Police ends.   Now the charity is hoping that even more Friends of Wiltshire Air Ambulance will sign up to support the air ambulance for years to come.

The new 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.

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 1st December 2014.

Cheryl Johnson, head of fundraising & development for the charity said, “When our partnership with Wiltshire Police ends later this year, we will need to fund the full cost of providing the air ambulance on our own. That amounts to £2.5 million a year. By becoming a Friend of Wiltshire Air Ambulance and making a monthly donation, you will be providing the charity with regular, steady income, one that we can rely on. This will enable us to plan ahead and ensure that we can continue to keep saving as many lives as possible across the county.

“We are extremely grateful to our many new and valued Friends who have already signed up to support their local air ambulance and its life-saving work.”

As  a Friend, members receive: • An exclusive Friends of Wiltshire Air Ambulance lapel badge and car sticker • Priority event information • An invitation to an exclusive annual Friends event • Advance mailing of the charity’s Lift Off magazine.

For a Friends application form just call 01380 739453 or visit www.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk.