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Update: East Anglian Air Ambulance bosses forced to borrow helicopters after own are grounded

PUBLISHED: 15:25 21 February 2011 | UPDATED: 15:25 21 February 2011

East Anglian Air Ambulance.

East Anglian Air Ambulance.

Submitted

Temporary helicopters have been drafted in after the usual East Anglian Air Ambulance aircraft were grounded because of “operational issues.”

"While the situation with Sterling Aviation is unfortunate, it is our mission to provide a first class air ambulance service across the region and that’s what we’ll continue to do."

Steve Whitby, deputy chief executive of the East Anglian Air Ambulance

Bosses at the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) today insisted it would be “business as usual” and that the life-saving service would be running.

The EAAA confirmed that, late on Friday afternoon, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) temporarily suspended the Air Operators Certificate (AOC) of Norwich-based firm Sterling Aviation due to procedural issues.

That meant the two yellow helicopters, Anglia One, based at Norwich International Airport, and Anglia Two, based at Cambridge Airport, were grounded.

However, the charity put in place its contingency plan and brought in aircraft supplied by another operator - Bond Air Services.

One of the red helicopters arrived in Cambridge yesterday, while the second was due to be flown into Norwich today.

Charity bosses said, due to “adverse weather conditions” over the weekend, the air ambulance would not have flown in any case.

Steve Whitby, deputy chief executive of the EAAA said: “There have been rumours over the weekend that our service has been suspended and I want to take this opportunity to reassure all those who support us that this is not the case and, in fact, it’s very much ‘business as usual’

“We were told late on Friday that Sterling’s Air Operators Certificate had been suspended and we then immediately activated our contingency plan to source alternative aircraft.

“Unfortunately weather conditions across the region on Saturday meant that no aircraft were able to fly so we operated our service by rapid response car instead.

“As of Sunday we had one of the two replacement aircraft in place at our base at Cambridge Airport. The second will be operational today and our service will operate as usual.

“While the situation with Sterling Aviation is unfortunate, it is our mission to provide a first class air ambulance service across the region and that’s what we’ll continue to do.

“We’re grateful to our many partners, including EEAST for their support.”

Dr Pam Chrispin, medical sirector for the NHS Ambulance Trust (EEAST), said: “Obviously we were concerned to hear that Sterling Aviation were unable to provide their normal service for the charity.

“EAAA has acted with remarkable speed and professionalism in putting in place the interim arrangements and I am delighted that these will be up and running so quickly.

“The NHS Ambulance Trust values the relationship we have with EAAA as a partner across the four counties. It is this kind of strong collaborative working that has seen this weekend’s issues quickly resolved.”

The temporary aircraft are Bolkow 105s, a type of aircraft widely used for air ambulance work around the UK.

The news comes in the same week that Norfolk police confirmed it would share its helicopter with Suffolk police from the start of the next financial year.

The decision came after the force’s £600,000 a year air support contract with Sterling came to an end.

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