As a charity delivering advanced pre-hospital care to the most critically ill and injured people in the region, every decision we make with regards to the current and future delivery of our service centres on what is best for our patients.
Our current bases in Marden and Redhill are geographically suitable for operations across Kent, Surrey and Sussex, but the space available to us at each site presents a number of operational challenges.
These challenges caused us to investigate the potential for a single operational base at Old Hay Airfield near Paddock Wood, Tonbridge. We submitted a planning application in December 2015 for the development of a new hangar, for our two helicopters, and ancillary office space.
Subsequently, in February 2016, we were approached by Redhill Aerodrome Ltd. (RAL), about the potential availability of a large hangar, known as Hangar 10, which can accommodate current and future operational needs. This proposal was recently confirmed following the decision of the previous company occupying the hangar to vacate, and the subsequent acquisition of the hangar by RAL.
Another fundamental factor in the decision to withdraw the original planning application and progress with Redhill, is an arrangement with our aviation partner, Specialist Aviation Services (SAS), which currently carries out all its heavy maintenance at its Gloucestershire Airport HQ. SAS has been considering a corporate maintenance base in the vicinity of London for some time, and has decided that co-location with us in Hangar 10 at Redhill Aerodrome is an ideal fit for its future business plan.
Work will shortly be underway to prepare Hangar 10 at Redhill Aerodrome for the arrival of the new AW169 helicopter later in the year.
Hangar 10 has sufficient space for training requirements, which is crucially important to the safe delivery of a 24 hour Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS).
We must ensure that our Doctors and Paramedics are trained to operate safely and effectively in a pre-hospital environment which often involves working in very challenging weather and surroundings. They must also be capable of adhering to aviation regulations whilst fulfilling their individual roles safely and effectively. The move to Hangar 10 will enable us to achieve this.