Loud cheers went up around the Devon Air Ambulance airbase at Exeter airport last Thursday, as our new Airbus H145 helicopter flew down the runway and settled onto the helipad – it was the first time this new generation aircraft had landed in Devon.

The new helicopter arrived at Exeter as part of a training flight from the Airbus Helicopters UK facility in Oxfordshire, where the aircraft is currently based. We formally accepted the new H145 last month and since then our pilots have been undertaking extensive training on the new aircraft. The flight into Exeter forms part of a three-week training programme which includes classroom-based theory, ‘visual’ and ‘instrument’ flight training containing a mixture of proficiency and flight skills tests and a theory exam.

Our Flight Operations Director Ian Payne said, “It’s fantastic to see our new H145 helicopter flying into Devon for the first time, it marks the culmination of several years of hard work and development to get the very best aircraft for the people of Devon.”

“Those with a keen eye will notice the new H145, registered G-DAAS, is slightly bigger than our current EC135 aircraft which means we have a larger internal space to treat and convey patients, we can carry more emergency medical equipment and it has a longer flight time between refuelling. The advanced technology and aviation systems that are included with this aircraft really make the H145 a complete package and will ensure we have the very best airborne capability to deliver our enhanced and critical care for many years to come.”

“Despite the impact of Coronavirus, the new aircraft was delivered on time by Airbus Helicopters UK and we’d like to extend our thanks to the whole team at Airbus for their support and attention to detail throughout the project lifecycle”.

Gary Clark, Head of Civil Business, Airbus Helicopters in the UK, said: “We greatly appreciate Devon Air Ambulance’s continuing confidence in our products, and we look forward to supporting them for many years to come. The H145 provides a substantial enhancement to air ambulance operations and we are confident that it will enable DAA to offer even higher standards of service in its vitally important field of work.”

This training flight is one of a number that our pilots will carry out as they gain experience of the H145s array of advanced aviation technology and systems that deliver handling, autopilot and navigational aid functions. Once pilot training is completed in Oxford during August the new aircraft will be permanently based here in Devon, where more crew training will be carried out before the aircraft goes into service later in the year.

Ian Payne added: “As soon as the H145 is based here in Devon we will be rolling out training across the whole of the Patient Services team. Our paramedics and doctors will not only be learning about the aircraft’s flight management and safety systems, but they will also learn how and where their medical equipment is stored and accessed so that in an emergency the new patient treatment area quickly becomes second nature.

All of this crew training will need to be delivered whilst we remain operational from 7am to 2am, 19 hours a day, so we expect it’s going to be a very busy time as we build up to the point of introducing the new aircraft into service during the autumn.”

DAA Chief Executive Heléna Holt said: “We recognise the huge responsibility we owe to our supporters to ensure we get the best possible aircraft to meet the needs of our current and future HEMS operations in Devon. We are confident the new H145 is the right aircraft and will be a huge asset in helping us to bring urgent medical care to those who need it most.

Our thanks, as ever, to all the businesses, communities and individuals who support us. We look forward to the day that we can invite you all to come and see the new aircraft which has been made possible by your generous support.”

It's thanks to our incredible supporters that we are able to plan ahead for significant and necessary purchases such as a new aircraft, which enables us to continue to deliver the best possible care to patients. If you feel you can help us to plan for the future, we welcome your donations.