Both of Devon's Air Ambulances are EC135 helicopters. They are widely used across the UK and indeed worldwide as Air Ambulances, as well as passenger aircraft.
The Exeter based aircraft, which shares a base with the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary Air Support Unit at Middlemoor in Exeter is registered 'G-DVAA' was purchased outright from Eurocopter UK, and was officially launched on 26th September 2008, going into operation early October 2008.
After much research, the charity took the decision to purchase, instead of the traditional leasing method, because of cost savings advantages. Ever since this time the charity is regularly asked, if there are cost savings, then why didn't it purchase an aircraft before? The answer to this question is simple - it didn't have the funds in order to put down a deposit, or buy out right before now. This is only possible thanks to the support of the community, businesses and friends of Devon.
Buying gave us the opportunity to purpose build the aircraft that would best suit our needs. This included many customisations that our crew played a major part in designing. These varied from where pockets and switches were, to locations of other pieces of essential equipment.
We were also honoured to be able to follow the build of our very own aircraft. Here are a few photos of the helicopter from start to completion. We're extremely proud of what we as a team have achieved, for the community we serve. It has ensured that Devon has the best possible Air Ambulance service that money can buy.
The North Devon based aircraft registered 'G-DAAT' is leased from Bond Air Services Ltd. Leasing includes pilots, maintenance and, of course, should the aircraft need scheduled maintenance, it means a replacement will be provided.
Looking to the future, thanks to BBC Radio Devon and their listeners pledging to help us raise £600,000 we aim to place an order for a second EC135 to replace this aircraft. Sadly we won't be able to keep our registration, as it is registered with the airframe of the aircraft, but we will come up with something equally as good to personalise it to Devon!
This helicopter is based at the Steve Ford Airbase, Eaglescott Airfield in Burrington, Umberleigh. This brand new airbase, officially opened in January 2010 was only possible thanks to the generous gift of a 125 year lease of airfield owner Barry Pearson. To the left you will see our Trustee Jack Lomas with the North Devon crew, representatives from Rok our builders and Alder King, with Barry Pearson, celebrating the digging of the first piece of turf back in July 2009.