Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust (CAAT) is celebrating 35 years of operation since its launch as the UK’s first dedicated air ambulance service in 1987.
CAAT, which serves largely rural and maritime region of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly in southwest England, has performed over 31,000 missions since the launch of the service. In 2021 alone, the charity’s Critical Care Paramedics were called out to 1,092 patients across the region – of which 733 incidents were responded to by a helicopter – across a range of incidents including medical emergencies to trauma-related injuries.
The charity served as the inspiration for a now expansive network of 23 dedicated air ambulance charities that serve regions across the UK, operating over 40 aircraft between them.
CAAT has expanded significantly since its launch
When the charity was launched in 1987 as the ‘First Air Ambulance Service Trust’, it initially operated on a shoestring budget with only one helicopter – an MBB Bo105 with minimal onboard medical equipment in which patients were loaded at the rear of the aircraft.
Subsequent helicopters included a Eurocopter EC135, which replaced the Bo105 in 2001, and a pair of night vision-equipped MD 902 helicopters leased from Special Aviation Services (SAS) in 2014 to replace the EC135, which enabled CAAT to extend operational hours to 12 hours a day from 2015.
CAAT currently operates two helicopters: an AgustaWestland AW169 (G-CRWL), which entered service in April 2020 and was purchased outright following a public fundraising campaign which raised over £2.7 million; and an AW109 (G-KRNO) leased from Castle Air as a backup aircraft. Both aircraft are maintained by Castle Air under a contract signed in November 2021.
Unlike the Bo105, the new aircraft are equipped with a range of modern emergency medical equipment. The charity began carrying blood transfusion equipment and blood packs in early 2021, performing its first on-site blood transfusion in February that year.
Both aircraft are based at CAAT’s dedicated headquarters at Newquay Airport, which opened in April 2016 and were built using funds provided by the UK government and a grant from the European Union’s Regional Development Fund.
The organization also operates a fleet of ground-based Rapid Response Vehicles (RRV), which responded to 359 incidents in 2021. CAAT received delivery of two new RRVs on 31 March 2022, expanding the fleet’s size to four cars.
A vital, lifesaving service funded by the generosity of the public
CAAT has also welcomed several new members to its team in recent years, including Andrew ‘Alf’ Evans, who was appointed as the charity’s new Head of Operations in February 2022, and Tim Bunting, appointed as CAAT’s Chief Executive in May 2021.
“There is no doubt that this lifesaving service is vitally needed in this county,” said Bunting. “But what’s more amazing is that it’s completely funded by the generosity of the people of Cornwall and beyond. The public has proudly supported us for the last 35 years. Today, we need them to keep us flying for many, many more.”
CAAT continues to operate on an entirely charitable basis, with revenues coming from a mixture of donations, lottery funds, corporate support and a network of three charity shops across the county.