Trustees of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust say they are confident they will be able to increase fundraising to £2 million a year.
The trust, formed a year ago, pays 35 per cent towards the shared Wiltshire Police helicopter/air ambulance, amounting to £700,000 a year. However, in 2015 it is likely to have its own helicopter, when police forces are being ordered by the Govern-ment to share helicopters, to save money. The charity will then have to raise £2 million.
Speaking at its first annual general meeting, on October 3 at Devizes Town Hall, chairman Richard Youens said the trustees were not daunted.
He added: “We believe the charity is extremely popular in Wiltshire and we have every confidence we will get the support we need to continue flying beyond 2015.
The meeting, attended by more than 60 people, was told that since the charity formed it had raised £1.3 million; more than brought in by its predecessor, the Wiltshire Air Ambu-lance Appeal.
Trustee Sanjeen Payne-Kumar said the charity had been strict on costs and next year had a target to raise £1.6 million.
Of all the 18 air ambulance charities in England and Wales, the amount of money raised in Wiltshire made the county the fourth most generous, he said.
The charity was formed after Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) relinquished sole trusteeship of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal after years of lobbying by campaigners who wanted it to be independent of the NHS.
David Philpott, who oversaw its formation and is now chief executive, praised the media, including Jill Crooks of Wilt-shire’s Gazette and Herald and Wiltshire Times newspapers.
He said: “We owe an enormous debt to the press. We would not be here today without that traditional, honest and fair reporting.”
The air ambulance has been a joint helicopter with Wiltshire Police for 22 years, but the contract ends in December 2014.
Wiltshire is the only air ambulance that can fly at night, due to special equipment and because it flies under different rules to air ambulances. Trustees were asked if, after the split, it would still fly at night.
Trustee Chris Lear said: “The Civil Aviation Authority hasn’t made its mind up about the regulations. There are other air ambulances that would like to fly at night.”