Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), which is based near Eaglescliffe, Stockton, has received its new £5-million charity-funded helicopter, the Guardian of the North II. The new Dauphin N3+ helicopter will replace the charity’s existing aircraft, which are each around thirty years old.
“This aircraft is only five years old and has had very little flying, so we were delighted to get her for the price,” said Andy Mawson, Director of Operations at GNAAS. “The additional power and range will give us a greater degree of flexibility when it comes to responding to serious incidents.”
Jay Steward, GNAAS Chief Pilot, added: “I can’t wait to get started in her. The testing has all gone well and we think she’ll add another dimension to the work we do in the region.”
The arrival of the new aircraft, which responded to its first medical emergency in Prudhoe just moments after its unveiling, marks the culmination of the charity’s relocation project: last year, the charity’s administrative and fundraising staff moved from offices in Darlington and Newton Aycliffe to its new site at Urlay Nook, Eaglescliffe. Its base at Teesside International Airport closed on 10 August.
Mawson explained that the relocation was paid for through charity reserves and grant funding, and as Covid-19 has made a dent in fundraising activity (the charity has lost an estimated £100,000 a month in income – in June, donations were at a third of last year’s levels), Mawson notes that GNAAS will continue to rely on the public’s help for some time to come. The charity has also put two of its older aircraft up for sale to help raise funds.
“This aircraft will mean the difference between life and death for some people out there,” Mawson said, adding that ‘the fundraising battle is far from over’. “Keeping our team flying needs the support of everyone in the region,” he said. “They’ve never let us down, and we hope they don’t now.”