Air Ambulance
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 9th November 2016 One of the two helicopters which will deliver Northern IrelandÕs first ever Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) is in Northern Ireland for a three-day flying visit. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

First Look at Primary Helicopter

One of the two helicopters which will deliver Northern Ireland’s first ever Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) is in Northern Ireland for a three-day flying visit.

The Airbus helicopter touched down outside Titanic Belfast today (Wednesday, 9th November) before heading to Enniskillen (Thursday) and Portstewart (Friday).

The Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (AANI) charity plans to permanently base two helicopters in Northern Ireland. The visiting helicopter will provide the main service while a second will be kept on stand-by to ensure minimum down time.

Ian Crowe, Chairman of AANI, said:

“We’re delighted to publicly unveil the actual helicopter which will provide Northern Ireland’s first HEMS service. The service will bring us into line with other regions in the UK and Ireland, and will help save an expected 18 to 50 lives every year.

“The support we’ve received from the public and local businesses has been fantastic, and this visit is an opportunity to say thank you and encourage others to get involved. Annual running costs for the service will be £1.8m and we’re relying on the generosity of local people to help us raise these funds.

“AANI is continuing to work with our partners in Health and Social Care to establish this lifesaving service, and we expect that the Health Minister will make a further announcement about the commencement of the service by the end of November.”

The helicopters and pilots will be supplied by Babcock Mission Critical Services, the leading provider of HEMS across the UK. Operating from more than 20 bases Babcock responds to hundreds of emergency calls every week. The medical staff and equipment will be provided and funded by Health and Social Care services

Offering her support for the event, the Health Minister Michelle O’Neill said:

“I would like to join AANI in thanking the community for their continued enthusiasm and support for the HEMS project.

“I also want to thank the Trustees who have been working closely with the Ambulance Service and health commissioners to prepare for the implementation of HEMS. I understand that their careful planning is drawing to a close, and I hope to be in a position to make a further announcement about the implementation of the service in the coming weeks, once I have fully considered the medical advice regarding the operating model.”

Ray Foran, an AANI Trustee, added:

“AANI is very pleased to have secured two EC135 Airbus Helicopters for use in Northern Ireland. These modern twin-engine helicopters were designed specifically with emergency services operations in mind and come fully equipped for HEMS and air ambulance operations. The main helicopter will also be equipped with weather radar to maximise its effectiveness.”

Among those who will have the opportunity to inspect the helicopter at close quarters during its visit to Northern Ireland are the Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, the Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, and 100 supporters who have helped raise funds for AANI this year.