Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Q&A with Devon Air Ambulance Trust

The Devon Air Ambulance Trust (DAAT) is our main charity for 2013, and we've been raising funds to help keep its two helicopters flying and support the critical work of its dedicated team.

We spoke to Heléna HoltChief Executive of the Trust to see how this year has gone for them so far...

What have been the main highlights of the past year? Give us a brief run-down of how many call-outs, rescues and training missions you undertook.
Over the last year we have flown in the region of a thousand missions.  Around 50% of these are medical and 50% trauma, which covers everything from road traffic collisions to falls, burns, industrial accidents and sporting injuries.

HH has raised over £13,000 to date this year - how will this money be spent?
With the changeover of operator for the North Devon airbase from Bond Air Services to the police, we have had to invest in some new tools, equipment and bespoke panel holding racks for planned maintenance and engineering on site.  This sum of money will go a long way to meeting all of these one off costs.

We hear you’ve recently (31st July) taken delivery of a new helicopter which started full operational flying on 1st September – what impact has this made to date and you expect to see over the coming months? 
The new aircraft has just gone into service so it is too soon to say what impact it has had.  However, what we expect is to at least double the savings on operational costs we have seen from owning our first aircraft, in the region of £14,000 per month.  With economies of scale from owning the second, we should be able to realise even more savings, which we have earmarked for funding extended clinical skills training for the crew and future night operations.  These plans will increase our availability significantly, particularly during the winter months when the nights draw in but people are still of course liable to accidents and illness.

Operationally, although both of our EC135 helicopters look the same, the new GDAAN does in fact have several enhanced customised features.  In our strategic plan, we aim to be flying into the night in 2016/17.  The new helicopter is compatible with this.  The aircraft interior has been painted with special non reflecting paint and all instruments and lights produce light at a waveform that will not interfere with the use of night vision goggles (NVG) – meaning it can operate more safely at night.

There are also illuminated steps, which enable the crew to exit and eneter the aircraft safely when operating in the dark, as well as on the ground cabin lighting.  Traditionally helicopters generate electrical power when the engines are running.  On the ground lighting runs by rechargeable batteries meaning the paramedic cs will have sufficient light to treat patients at night even when the aircraft engines aren’t running.

The electrical system on the Air Ambulance has also been enhanced so that it has the ability to not only power the medical equipment we carry, but by introducing 230v AC sockets we can also power hospital equipment when undertaking transfers of seriously ill patients to another  hospital.  We have also design ed the system to charge our Mobimed patient monitor when the aircraft is on the ground.

We hear that before the new helicopter went operational, it embarked on a tour across the county giving the public the chance to meet the pilots, paramedics and hear about the plans for the future. How successful was the tour?
The tour was a huge success.  It was so important to us to be able to say thank you to the whole community who have helped to make the purchase possible and

You’re celebrating your 21st birthday this year, what celebrations do you have planned? (21st birthday events at Darts Farm on 7/8th September)
We are all really excited about the birthday weekender at Darts Farm on 7th and 8th September.  This year we have a family fun day from 10am to 4pm, which will include emergency services demonstrations, lots of fantastic local food and drink, activities for children, #devonhour #tweetup from 1pm to 3pm and live blacksmith demonstrations, plus our aircraft will be dropping in between missions.  In addition, there are three ticketed events this year:  BBC Radio Devon’s John Govier will be broadcasting live from our marquee from 10am to 1pm; The Cannon Ball is from 7.30pm on the Saturday night and Show of Hands have a family concert at 5.30pm on Sunday. 

What other key events do you have organised for the rest of the year?  How can our readers and members of the public support the work of the DAAT?
After an exceptionally busy summer, there is no let up this autumn.  We are looking forward to the Agatha Christie Sea Swim on Sunday 15th September, a one mile swim in the sheltered waters of Torbay off Broadsands.  After this, we have our Annual Golf Day at Bovey Castle.  This is a fantastic course, with excellent hospitality, and the event is a great opportunity to cement business relationships for companies putting in teams or sponsoring one of the holes.  Then National Air Ambulance Week is from 23rd to 29th, when we are encouraging local businesses, associations, schools and individuals to Be A Hero for a day to raise money and awareness.  In October we will be very busy with the Commando Challenge.  Details of all these events, and how to take part can be found on our website at

Of course people can always support us through membership of our lottery, volunteering in, donating to and shopping in our charity shops, through regular giving or leaving a gift in their will at

What key plans and expectations do you have for 2014?
We are very excited about working with local communities across Devon to identify and support development of local community helipads, to facilitate our objective of introducing night operations.  This will make a huge difference to the number of patients we will be able to assist in future.  In addition, we are working with the local ambulance service to provide extended clinical skills training for the aircrew.  To support the additional cost, as well as utilising savings realised by owning our own aircraft, we will be expanding our network of shops, particularly looking to find outlets in the North, West and Mid Devon where we are less well represented.

If you’d like to make a donation, visit at any time or you can also make a contribution when you book a holiday through Helpful Holidays.