Image: (l to r) Cliff Gale, EHAAT operations director; Henk Schaeken managing director of MAS; Rob Forsyth, EHAAT chair of trustees; and Jane Gurney, EHAAT CEO (EHAAT)
UK HEMS charity Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust (EHAAT) is to purchase its own helicopter for the first time in its 20-year history. On 30 March, Rob Forsyth, chair of trustees, inked a deal with aircraft operator Medical Aviation Services (MAS) to secure the purchase and operation of a £6-million AW169.
The charity has also approved a 10-year contract to lease an MD902 Explorer. Both aircraft will be delivered in early 2017, with first flights scheduled for June, as the leases on EHAAT’s current aircraft come to an end.
The purchase was made possible thanks to the donation from businesses and the public in Essex & Hertfordshire, supported by the charity’s successful bid for £1.5 million from the Government’s Libor banking fine fund.
Forsyth commented: “We simply couldn’t have reached this magnificent milestone were it not for the tremendous support we receive from the people and businesses of Essex and Hertfordshire. The new AW169 will truly be their aircraft and we look forward to unveiling the new helicopter once it’s equipped, branded and ready to fly with us next summer.”
EHAAT noted the AW169’s internal cabin space for crew, patients and equipment, which will allow medical crew full access to the patient if necessary. The machine will also be capable of night flying, giving the charity the capability to broaden its service into the hours of darkness over the coming years. The service also pointed out that the helicopter boasts an auxiliary power unit to run clinical equipment on the ground, including the illumination of the cabin to assist crews whilst working.
Cliff Gale, operations director, said: “It became clear when we examined the costs to lease aircraft that over a 10-year period the Trust could save a considerable amount of money by purchasing an aircraft. This would also give us an asset still worth several million pounds at the end of a 10-year contract period which could be used to purchase a replacement aircraft and will save money on lease costs.”
The procurement process began in July 2014 to ensure the selection, equipping and branding of new aircraft could be achieved in time for June 2017 and that sufficient reserves would be in place to finance the purchase. Trustees approved the decision to purchase the new helicopter in December 2015.
Clive Gilham, EHAAT finance director, said: “Over recent years we have achieved continued financial progress, not least with the robust reserves position achieved. The nature of our service delivery, involving helicopters and clinical experts, requires substantial funding and so we needed adequate cash reserves to both protect the service and indeed to enable us to expand it too. The current financial year will show further good progress with increasing reserves such that we can not only purchase the planned new helicopter but actively seek to extend our hours of operation.”
Both the AW169 and MD902 will be flown and maintained by Medical Aviation Services (MAS) which has been working in partnership with EHAAT for the last 10 years.