London’s Air Ambulance

Header_Logo-templante-airambLondon’s Air Ambulance is the Charity that delivers an advanced trauma team to critically injured people in London. The service provides pre-hospital medical care to victims of serious injury, at the scene of the incident – serving the 10 million people who live, work and commute within the M25.

Based at the Royal London Hospital and founded in 1989, the service is unique in that it operates 24/7, with the helicopter running in daylight hours and rapid response cars taking over at night.

The Team, which at all times includes a Senior Trauma Doctor and a specially trained Paramedic, perform advanced medical interventions, normally only found in the Hospital Emergency Department, in time critical, life threatening situations. Missions commonly involve serious road traffic collisions, falls from height, industrial accidents, assaults and injuries on the rail network.   London’s Air Ambulance has an international reputation for clinical excellence and delivers pioneering procedures which have been adopted across the world.

London’s Air Ambulance was the first air ambulance service in the UK:

  • with a doctor and paramedic team;
  • to deliver high standard pre-hospital anaesthesia;
  • to have a clinical governance programme;
  • to perform a thoracotomy (open heart surgery) at the roadside;
  • to perform thoracostomy (to drain collapsed lungs);
  • to use check lists to improve patient safety;
  • with air & land based response; and to provide 24 hour cover.

The Helicopter

London’s Air Ambulance operates an MD902 Explorer twin engine helicopter, one of the most identifiable in the world. This is one of a new generation of aircraft chosen for its safety features which include no tail rotor, important in an urban environment.  It has been specially adapted for its purpose, to enable patients to be treated to the standard of an intensive care unit in flight.

From it’s helipad at the top of the Royal London Hospital, the Helicopter can reach the furthest points of the M25 within 12 minutes.   Each flying team consists of a senior trauma doctor, a paramedic, two pilots (one of whom acts as a navigator), and an observer (usually a doctor or paramedic completing their first month with London’s Air Ambulance, training for their role).

The Helicopter’s main use is to get this specialist trauma team to the patient in the quickest possible time – the team can be airborne within 2-3 minutes of receiving a call.  The doctor and paramedic will treat the patient, performing operations and procedures that are normally only seen in the hospital emergency department.  Once the patient is stabilised they will be taken to the nearest hospital best equipped to deal with the injuries.  The helicopter is equipped to take a patient to the hospital but this is not always the case. Often  the patient will travel by London Ambulance Service accompanied by the air ambulance team.

The Helicopter’s medical team is equipped with a substantial range of drugs, emergency surgical kits, monitors and other equipment ‘a mini Accident & Emergency Department (A&E) of their own’ so that they can begin treatment straight away.  

MD902 Specifications:
Hull No: 68
Max all up weight: 6250 lbs
Engines: 2 Pratt and Whitney 206e
Top speed: 140 kts
Mission ready endurance: 1 hour from the Helipad (130 miles)


The Rapid Response Cars

When the Helicopter is offline – either at night when it is too dangerous to land in London, or if there are dangerous weather conditions – the operation is supported by a rapid response car team which ensures 24 hour care to London.

The rapid response cars also carry a senior trauma doctor and a specially trained paramedic to the scene of the injury in the quickest time possible. The Rapid Response team will treat the patient on scene, carrying out procedures normally only found in the emergency room. The Rapid Response team patrol London awaiting a call from the London Ambulance Service’s control room to send them to a serious case.  The rapid response cars attend the same types of serious incidents as the Helicopter.

The Rapid Response team is equipped with a substantial range of drugs, emergency surgical kits, monitors and other equipment ‘a mini Accident & Emergency Department (A&E) of their own’ so that they can begin treatment straight away.

London’s Air Ambulance has six Skoda Octavias.  All cars are equipped with blue lights, high visibility strips and badges to identify the car as part of the London’s Air Ambulance fleet.

Blue Light Drivers at London’s Air Ambulance undergo a five day training course under blue light conditions. The training also includes Vehicle Daily Inspection (VDI), Ground Escorting and a written Highway Code Driving Test.  London’s Air Ambulance has its own internal driving licence.

Vehicle Specifications
Engine: 2.0tFSI 200 BHP
Type: 4 cylinder in line engine
Valves per cylinder: 2 Transverse Mounted Multi point fuel injection turbo
Cubic cap: 1.984
Bore stroke: 82.5 x 92.8
Max speed: 149mph 0 to 62 mph: 7.3 seconds


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