Great Western Air Ambulance is the newest HEMS outfit in the United Kingdom, beginning missions in June 2008. Before then, the area was covered by the Wiltshire Air Ambulance/Police’s MD902 Explorer. GWAA initially began operations with a Eurocopter EC135 +T2 registered G-SPHU, which previously operated with Strathclyde Police Air Support Unit.
Once operations commenced, it was clear that the 5 day a week service would cost too much to run with the EC135 so on 29th January 2009 it was announced they would downgrade the helicopter to a smaller, German built Bolkow BO-105 – registration G-NDAA, which previously operated for the Devon Air Ambulance. With this cheaper aircraft becoming operation in April 2009, the unit extended their operations to 7 days a week.
With the opening of Bristol Royal Infirmary’s new rooftop helipad, Great Western Air Ambulance were forced to find a new helicopter due to the ageing BO-105’s weight and power limits which meant it was not able to use the pad.
In July 2012 the charity launched the ‘Movin on up’ campaign to raise £250,000 in a year to contribute to an EC135 T2 leased from Bond Helicopters to be used 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Finally, on the 16th October 2014, GWAAC received their new Eurocopter EC135 T2, registered G-GWAA which previously operated with the Midlands Air Ambulance and later the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance as G-WMAS. Initially, the aircraft remained in traditional red with yellow colours before going back into Bond Helicopters at Gloucester Staverton airfield to be painted in the very striking new colours.
BEFORE: Old BO-105 Cabin:
AFTER: New EC135 T2 HEMS cabin:
To keep the new helicopter in the air, GWAAC now need to raise £2million a year. People can donate via their website www.gwaac.com, or by texting HELI13 £2 (or any amount) to 70070.