Wales Air Ambulance (WAA) has celebrated the arrival of the first of a brand new fleet of custom-built helicopters at its airbase in Dafen. Providing coverage for the whole of South Wales, the H145 model is the first of three the UK HEMS charity plans to introduce this year, which it said will significantly enhance operations. Operated by Babcock Mission Critical Services Onshore, the new machine replaces an EC135 model that was introduced in 2009.
The H145 comes equipped for night flying, which WAA said moves it a step closer to its goal of providing a 24-hour air ambulance service. Thre helicopter also boasts a larger cabin and more powerful engines than the outgoing model.
Operations manager Mark Winter said: “The H145 is a significantly more advanced machine, meaning we can do so much more for the people we help. The cabin is larger and has more light, so we can access patients easily in-flight and have room for all our medical equipment.” He added: “When we introduced the EC135 eight years ago, we were excited it had a fourth seat for an additional medic or the parent of an injured child. Now we have five seats, which gives us even more scope for specialist medical passengers.”
Commenting on the new vehicle’s night-flying adaptations, Winter said: “The cockpit is set up for night vision technology. We have a weather radar, additional lights underneath and a ‘tracker light’ on the front, which is like a giant torch and incredibly powerful. These new features will make a difference to the work we can do after dark.”
Two more H145 helicopters will join the fleet in the coming months, said WAA, replacing its aircraft based in Caernarfon and Welshpool. WAA’s fourth, Cardiff-based helicopter, dedicated to neonatal, paediatric and adult transfers across Wales, will remain an EC135.