The new Wiltshire Air Ambulance will be a state of the art helicopter and will be the first of its kind to operate as an air ambulance in the UK.

The air ambulance currently operates as a shared helicopter with Wiltshire Police, an arrangement that has been in place for the past 23 years, but the collaboration will end in December this year as the police will be joining the National Police Air Service where helicopters are shared between police forces.

Today the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust (WAACT) announced what model of helicopter it will have and signed a ten year contract with Heli Charter to operate the Bell 429 helicopter.

This will be the first Bell 429 to operate as an air ambulance in the UK, there are currently 50 operating as air ambulances worldwide including ten in Europe.

The air ambulance will cost WAACT £2.5 million a year, compared to the £700,000 it currently pays for the shared police helicopter, but chairman of trustees Richard Youens, who lives in Rushall, said he was confident that the trust could raise the money to fund the air ambulance.

The trust already has £2.5 million in reserves and last year raised £1.9 million.

The new Wiltshire air ambulance will fly at night. Its hours of operation is still to be finalised but the default position is it will fly 19 hours a day as the existing shared air ambulance/police helicopter in Wiltshire does.