THIS year is a particularly special one for Wiltshire Air Ambulance as it celebrates 30 years of operation and saving a generation of people.

During 2020 the charity has a number of fundraising events planned and it will also be raising awareness about its vital service and the fact it relies on donations to continue saving lives.

The charity needs £10,000-worth of donations every day to fund its operation and needs to raise £3.75 million a year to keep flying.

Each month, videos of patients whose lives were saved by Wiltshire Air Ambulance will feature on the charity’s social media channels and website, along with an opportunity to make a donation.

David Philpott, the WAA's chief executive, said: “During the last 30 years the crews serving on Wiltshire Air Ambulance have saved a generation of people.

"As a result those people have gone on to have children, welcome siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces into the world or become grandparents.

“Wiltshire Air Ambulance is part of the fabric of the county and the public understand the importance of our service.

"In our rural communities the speed of our helicopter and the expertise of our pilots, specialist paramedics and doctors have made the difference between life and death.

“Throughout our existence we have been funded by donations and we are truly thankful to everyone who has supported our charity. Every donation enables us to keep our lifesaving service operational.

“We’ve saved lives for 30 years and with the help of our supporters we want to be here to save the next generation.”

Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s history is unique in the air ambulance industry because when it began it shared a helicopter with Wiltshire Police.

The idea for a joint emergency services helicopter originated in 1988 when a temporary helicopter hired by Wiltshire Police for its summer solstice operation at Stonehenge was used to airlift a woman who was seriously injured in a road traffic collision on the A350 at Beanacre, near Melksham.

A full-time joint emergency services helicopter began operating on March 15 1990, based at Wiltshire police headquarters in Devizes.

In 2007 Wiltshire was in danger of losing its air ambulance when the Great Western Ambulance Service (which was the sole trustee of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal charity) contemplated not renewing the contract with Wiltshire Police for the joint helicopter for a further five years.

A successful campaign led by the Gazette & Herald led to Wiltshire Air Ambulance being saved and the helicopter contract was renewed for a further five years.

This joint helicopter partnership came to an end in December 2014 with the establishment of the National Police Air Service.

A new era began for Wiltshire Air Ambulance on January 9 2015 when it became a stand-alone air ambulance, using a Bell 429 helicopter.

In May 2018 the charity’s state-of-the-art airbase in Semington, near Melksham, opened.

From the airbase the Bell 429 helicopter can reach all parts of Wiltshire within 11 minutes. Paramedics also use Rapid Response Vehicles to respond to emergencies.

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