Giorgio Bendoni (pictured) has recently joined Wiltshire Air Ambulance (WAA) to oversee the charity’s transition from its current collaborative partnership with Wiltshire Police to a completely separate and independent helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) provider at the end of this year.
Bendoni joined WAA in May as Bell 429 programme co-ordinator to bring together all the parties involved in the new partnership, which follows on from Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust signing a 10-year contract with Manston-based Heli Charter Ltd (Bell’s UK agent) to provide a new 429 helicopter. The contract will come into effect in September 2014. The lease on the current 12-year-old MD 902 Explorer helicopter expires on 31 December 2014, when Wiltshire Police are mandated to use aircraft provided by the National Police Air Service.
Bendoni, 55, first trained with the Italian Naval Academy and the US Navy Naval Air Training School. During his military career, which spanned 22 years, he served as a pilot, Carrier Air Group Commander and Commanding Officer. He then went on to become director general of Helicopters Italia Ltd, Helitalia Plc and has also held senior positions with Camper Nicholson Yachting (managing director), Sloane Helicopters Ltd (sales and marketing director), and Avionomica Ltd (director).
Bendoni is the current chairman of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Institute of Directors, a director of Gallery Ltd (an international technology group) and also lectures on economics and business management. He lives in Southampton with his wife and four children, and has a BSC/MSC in Marine Science, MSC in Finance and is a Chartered Director.
In addition to overseeing Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s transitional aviation and operational arrangements, Mr Bendoni will also oversee the charity’s search for a new base in the medium term, as the air ambulance will need to find a new operational home from 2017.
The Bell 429 will be the first such aircraft to operate as an air ambulance in the UK. Starting in the late autumn of 2014, the contract with Heli Charter Ltd covers the provision, maintenance and flying of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance aircraft for up to 19 hours a day, every day of the year. It also includes a replacement helicopter to be provided after five years. Paramedics and other medical support will continue to be provided by South West Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT), with whom the charity enjoys a close, efficient and effective working relationship.
The Bell 429 helicopter is currently being built in Mirabel, Canada, and will be adapted to air ambulance configuration, which will make it capable of carrying one or two pilots, two or three paramedics as well as a patient on a stretcher. This autumn will see a period of testing and training for the crews in Wiltshire so that the new air ambulance is set to go live by 1 December 2014.
Commenting on his appointment, Mr Bendoni said: “I am delighted that the Charity entrusted me at this critical time to assist in the delivery of the programme. The challenges ahead are not trivial, but the team that I have the pleasure to co-ordinate is highly skilled and their dedication and commitment are truly impressive.”
David Philpott, chief executive of Wiltshire Air Ambulance, added: “I have known Giorgio for many years and had the good fortune to work with him on occasion when he was deploying Agusta helicopters in HEMS operations. I count it a great privilege and coup to have secured his services at this exciting time for our charity.”