Photo: The air ambulance’s new hangar at Redhill Aerodrome
The Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance Trust (KSSAAT) will retain its two current sites for Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) operations following the unforeseen offer of a new, larger hangar at its existing base at Redhill Aerodrome.
Previously, in December 2015, the Charity submitted a planning application for the development of a new hangar, for its two helicopters, and ancillary office space at Old Hay Airfield near Paddock Wood. At that time, this was the most appropriate solution to enable the Charity to overcome a number of operational deficits affecting the efficiency of its operations.
Subsequently, in February 2016, the Charity was approached by Redhill Aerodrome Ltd. (RAL), about the potential availability of a large hangar, known as Hangar 10, which can accommodate current and future operational needs and has sufficient space for training requirements. This proposal has recently been confirmed following the decision of the previous company occupying the hangar to vacate and the subsequent acquisition of the hangar by RAL.
Another fundamental factor in the decision to withdraw the original planning application and progress with Redhill, is an arrangement with the Charity’s aviation partner, Specialist Aviation Services (SAS), which currently carries out all its heavy maintenance at its Gloucestershire Airport HQ. SAS has been considering a corporate helicopter maintenance base in the vicinity of London for some time, and has decided that co-location with the Charity in Hangar 10 at Redhill Aerodrome is an ideal fit for its future business plan.
Adrian Bell, Chief Executive of the Charity, said: “Everything the Charity does centres on what is best for the patient. We have a duty to ensure that all opportunities which affect the long-term sustainability of our service are carefully considered, so that we can continue to be available for, and reach patients who need us.
“I’m thrilled that these plans have now been confirmed and that the Charity’s long-term resilience and sustainability that we so keenly sought through our original plans, will be fulfilled by having the Charity’s aircraft garaged and maintained at Redhill. Our helicopters will continue to deploy routinely from both Marden and Redhill, and the night service will continue as normal from Redhill.
“The co-location with SAS is a momentous step forward for us. Mechanical support is vital for keeping our aircraft online and despite the use of relief helicopters and having field engineers in the area to support our operation, there has always been some resultant down time.
“Having SAS at Redhill will allow for a resident engineer on-site with immediate access to spares and other technical support. This will help to maximise aircraft availability which will further benefit our many patients.
“Trustees have also long been acutely aware of the levels of risk involved in any new build project and have always sought to mitigate these to the greatest extent possible; an established facility which carries no such risks, is therefore highly attractive.
“Developing a new base obviously costs a great deal of money, so as a Charity, reliant almost entirely on charitable contributions, we were duty bound to consider this new proposal from RAL, especially as it is a significantly more cost-effective option.”
The Charity will maintain its headquarters at Marden and is in the process of acquiring sufficient extra land to allow it to expand its helipad to operate its new aircraft from the Kent site; the larger and faster AW169. It is hoped that this will be completed by early 2017. The Marden based fundraising arm of the Charity’s operation will also be unaffected.
Work will shortly be underway to prepare Hangar 10 at Redhill Aerodrome for the arrival of the new AW169 helicopter in the late summer.
For more information, visit www.kssairambulance.org.uk/future