Cornwall's Air Ambulance Helicopters

Cornwall now has two air ambulance helicopters. Find out what these state-of-the-art aircraft mean for Cornwall.

Why the MD902 ‘Explorer’?

The MD902 ‘Explorer’ is used all over the world, in roles from VIP transport to Police and medical tasks. Many other UK air ambulances already use this model and it has proved dependable, safe and efficient.

The helicopter can carry 235kg more weight than our previous aircraft. This means more medical equipment, additional expert crew, or extra fuel to increase the flying range by up to 80 nautical miles, making it easier for us to take patients to specialist centres far from Cornwall, like the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

To make the most of the space, the internal layout has been designed by the aircrew to allow them to deliver the best possible patient care. Who better to design the medical interior than those who use it? 

The helicopter also incorporates advanced safety features, such as the NOTAR system which replaces the tail rotor blade with a fan system, making it a safer environment for patients and crew. There’s also a built-in liferaft, meaning the crew no longer have to fit the raft before missions to the Isles of Scilly, saving vital minutes.

Night Vision: There for Cornwall for longer

From Night Vision Imaging System (NVIS) goggles to specially adapted cockpits, a 30-million candle power searchlight and advanced mapping, the helicopter and crews are now trained and equipped to fly into the darkness for the first time.

Initially the charity is extending flying hours to 12 hours per day, 365 days a year. This will make a particular difference during the winter months, where daylight has previously restricted the helicopter to flying as few as 8 hours a day. 

The charity estimates this change could enable the air ambulance to fly around an extra 50 missions per year. For some patients, those will be the missions that count.

Seeing Double: Two helicopters for Cornwall

Previously if the helicopter was offline for maintenance, Cornwall was without its air ambulance until a spare arrived from Gloucestershire. In 2013 there were 13 missions we couldn’t attend for mechanical reasons.

Having two air ambulances permanently based in Cornwall helps to eliminate mechanical downtime.

The two helicopters don’t operate at the same time - one is on duty with the other ready to take over at a moment’s notice, ensuring Cornwall Air Ambulance is there for those who need it.