News Read our blog The sky's the limit With the build of our brand new helicopter well underway, Flight Operations Director, Ian Payne, tells us about the benefits to our crew and patients of an aircraft with more capacity, when we expect delivery and what will happen to G-DVAA. Why are we getting a new helicopter? DAA’s helicopters are very well maintained and, as a result, usually have a very long working life. G-DVAA has been with DAA for some 11 years! While this is in part beneficial, it can mean that the requirements and working practices of the owners often change significantly over time, which is the case for DAA. When G-DAAN was purchased in 2013, the normal operating crew comprised 2 paramedics and a pilot, whereas today, the Exeter aircraft also carries a doctor along with a significant amount of additional medical equipment associated with the advanced clinical skills of our crew. In short, we’ve run out of space! How does this H145 differ from the existing EC135? Externally the aircraft are somewhat similar. With ‘identical’ paint scheme, the most obvious difference is that the airframe is larger with an associated increase in ‘Maximum all up Weight’ (MAUW) of 790kg. The pilots will notice a big difference in the layout and operation of the cockpit instruments while the onboard medical fit out is a bespoke design and very different to the current interior. What are the benefits of this new helicopter – what will it help us achieve? The previously-mentioned increase in space and interior layout will greatly improve access to patients and provide a better environment for the clinicians to provide the excellent enhanced clinical care that DAA provides. The increase in MAUW will allow additional fuel to be carried that will improve our operational capability as our current aircraft occasionally need refuelling at the extremes of our operating area before returning to base. How much will it cost? The cost of the helicopter is approximately £7.5m with the actual final cost dependent on the exchange rate as the contract is in Euros. Who is building it / where? It’s being manufactured at the same factory at Donauwörth in Germany as our current aircraft. From component parts, it is assembled by hand by Airbus employees. When do we expect delivery? The aircraft itself will be completed towards the end of this year and flown from Donauwörth to the Airbus facility at Oxford Airport where our base engineering is carried out. At Oxford, the medical interior will be installed along with some other minor modifications, followed by a very rigorous acceptance process. It is expected that the aircraft will be delivered to DAA on 31st May 2020. What is the current status? Our new helicopter, registered ‘G-DAAS’, is presently in a part built stage on the production line, recognisable as an airframe with the cabin areas and engine bays in place. What will happen to the old helicopter, G-DVAA? The value of previously owned helicopters remains relatively high in comparison to their initial cost some 12 years earlier. If possible, it will be sold complete with medical interior as it’s costly to take all the role equipment off! We already have some initial enquiries from as far afield as Estonia and Monaco. Does the aircrew need lots of new training? They certainly do. Airbus already maintains this type of helicopter and as a result our ‘local’ contract engineer and staff at Oxford are already trained. Jeff, our DAA engineer, has just passed his engine course and will shortly commence further courses relating to the airframe and avionics. The pilots will commence a one week ground school in early 2020 followed by a very busy week at the simulator in Donauwörth and further flying on G-DAAS once delivered. Some of our pilots have previous experience of a variant of the H145 and as a result will undertake what is called a ‘differences course’. Our Paramedics and doctors will receive their type specific training on the actual helicopter after delivery to Exeter. Are there plans for a ‘Tour of Devon’? Yes! …. Watch this space. Any other interesting stuff…..? Although there are some similarities in terms of operating G-DAAS, it is a new type to DAA. As such, it requires significant and detailed work to be submitted to the Civil Aviation Authority to vary our Air Operator’s Certificate in advance of the helicopter delivery. This ranges from training documentation through specific operating procedures and practices, maintenance procedures and even new cabin emergency briefing cards; a very long list! Devon Air Ambulance is a charity that is very much made possible by, and exists for, the people of Devon. As a charity that is 100% independent of Government and National Lottery funding, it is thanks to our incredible supporters that we are able to meet the funds needed to keep our helicopters flying. Are you interested in lending some support? Here are a few ways you can get on board. Senior Pilot, Steve Rush, Signs the fuselage to the new Devon Air Ambulance helicopter, due in 2020.