The UK's Air Ambulance Foundation estimates a need for at least 10 more helicopters equipped for the emergency medical services (EMS) role in the UK as new European operating regulations come into force.

The foundation, which replaces the UK National Association of Air Ambulance Services, has been established to raise funds for service expansion and replacement of ageing aircraft following the end of a five-year, £10.5 million ($17 million) sponsorship from UK breakdown assistance organisation the Automobile Association (Flight International, 9-15 May 2000). The charity's executive director, Jon Scourse, says the third set of European joint aviation requirements for operations (JAR-Ops3) will speed up the phasing out of older aircraft operating in the UK, such as the Eurocopter BO105.

Most BO105 operators in the UK are expected to opt for Eurocopter EC135s despite a lengthy production backlog, he says. There is also a need for additional services in the UK where 18 aircraft are in operation, he says. Three areas of the country, including Northern Ireland, are without air ambulance cover and the metropolitan centres of London and Manchester will also require additional helicopters, says Scourse.

The foundation says it expects to contribute national funds to local charities in England and Wales that fund the EMS services, as well as to hospitals across the UK that are faced with landing pad upgrades necessitated by JAR-Ops3.

BO105s cost around £700,000 a year to operate, compared to around £1.2 million for an EMS-equipped EC135, he says.

Essex Air Ambulance is to take delivery of its first EC135 in May, having ordered it in 1998 to "avoid the stampede caused by JAR-Ops3".

Source: Flight International