‘Wonderful’ East Anglian public thanked for letting Prince William get on with his work as ambulance pilot

The Duke of Cambridge as he begins his new job with the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Stefan Rousseau/

The Duke of Cambridge as he begins his new job with the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The 'wonderful' East Anglian public have been praised for allowing the Duke of Cambridge to carry out his vital work with the air ambulance unhindered.

Pilot David Kelly at the East Anglian Air Ambulance annual meeting at Culford School. Picture by Gre

Pilot David Kelly at the East Anglian Air Ambulance annual meeting at Culford School. Picture by Gregg Brown - Credit: Gregg Brown

Prince William joined the East Anglian Air Ambulance as a pilot last July.

With the inevitable limelight that usually follows him around, there was concern his work would attract unwanted attention but an air ambulance spokeswoman said how pleased they were that people appreciated the serious work he was doing and were letting him get on with the job.

'As a charity we're delighted that the region has supported his work and allowed him to get on with the job – the very important job he's chosen to do,' she said, speaking after the charity's annual meeting on Saturday at Culford School, near Bury St Edmunds.

'The general public has been wonderful – just letting him get on and accepting he's someone trying to do a job like anyone else.'

The Duke is part of a team of 12 pilots – eight based in Cambridge and four in Norwich – who fly above the region responding to an average of five calls a day.

'We all feel he's very much part of the team,' she added.

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Captain David Kelly is the senior pilot with the air ambulance service and has been with them since leaving the army.

'It's a great position and a real honour,' he said as he told the audience at Culford about being an air ambulance pilot. It's a huge amount of responsibility and power.'

The air ambulance can land on hard-to-reach places where normal aircraft would not be allowed – school fields, dual carriageways – whatever it takes to save someone's life.

'We've all trained and we want to be HEMS pilots (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services),' he said. 'This is where we want to be and this is the job we want to be doing.'

Supporters of the air ambulance heard from patients whose lives had been saved by the helicopter, whisking them away to hospital.

Tim Papworth fell from a ladder and suffered a life-threatening head injury in 2010 at his farm near North Walsham, in Norfolk.

'The reason I'm here today is to tell my story,' he said. 'At the end of the day there's no way I could pay enough back financially to say thank you for saving my life. For me, everything I can do to raise money for the air ambulance I do. That's why I'm here today.

'How lucky am I that we've got this marvellous service?'

The charity's second new helicopter, an H145, will shortly go into action alongside its counterpart and it was on show for people to examine and explore.

It costs £10m a year to run the air ambulance service, with chief executive Patrick Peal also announcing the plan for a new ground vehicle service to be on hand from its Norwich base in the midnight to 7am period.

This could help ensure more patients are treated in the 'golden hour', when time really can make the difference between life and death.

'I want everyone who comes into contact with the East Anglian Air Ambulance to be proud of that association,' he said. 'This is a fantastic cause and if we can persuade more people to become engaged I know they will feel that enthusiasm and support.'

Capt Kelly is running the London Marathon in April, aiming to raise £2,000 for the air ambulance. To sponsor him, visit www.justgiving.com/DaveKellyEAAAPilot

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