Kate Sarsfield/LONDON

The UK's Automobile Association (AA) is to enter the emergency medical services (EMS) market to complement its nationwide emergency car breakdown operation. The AA is expected to announce details of the launch by the middle of April.

Although details remain sketchy, the Basingstoke, Hampshire-based AA is expected to start the programme using two Eurocopter BO105s, followed by a larger Agusta A109 Power.

The organisation is also eyeing the twin-engined Eurocopter EC135 as it expands to cover more of the UK.

Some helicopter operators, including Aberdeen-based Bond Helicopters, have signed contracts to operate the aircraft on behalf of the AA.

The association, which declines to comment on its plans, will become the first motoring organisation in the UK to sponsor a dedicated air ambulance operation. Similar services have been set up by equivalent organisations elsewhere in Europe, including Austria, Germany and Spain.

The UK organisation has been advertising itself as the "fourth emergency service" after the police, ambulance and fire departments. Its move into EMS is thought to be part of a campaign to enhance its self-proclaimed image. "The AA has invested a large sum of money to sponsor a number of aircraft, which in return will be painted in their bright yellow livery," says an industry source.

The service will also complement the seven EMS operations in the UK and will be supported by the London-based National Association for Air Ambulance Services charity, which is designed to offer assistance to regional air ambulance operators.

Source: Flight International