The Great North Air Ambulance Service owns three helicopters. They are all the same make and model, the Eurocopter Dauphin AS365. The helicopters are large and quick. They cruise at a speed of 150 knots, which is about 170 miles per hour. They have a range of about three hours, which means they could travel uninterrupted from the region to Paris, France, if needed!
The three helicopters were bought from Leeds Bradford International Airport based aviation experts Multiflight over the space of two years, from 2011 to 2012. Each has a unique aircraft registration. They are:
GNHAA – The Guardian of the North - the deposit for this aircraft was paid early in 2010 and after a refit it went on active duty in the spring of the same year. The aircraft was previously owned by former England footballer Michael Owen, and had to be altered to make it suitable to be an air ambulance. It is usually based at Durham Tees Valley Airport.
GNHAB – The Pride of Cumbria – this aircraft started flying for the Great North Air Ambulance Service in 2011. It had been used as private transportation in the Mediterranean. It is usually based at Langwathby, near Penrith, and works predominantly in Cumbria.
GNHAC – the latest addition to the fleet has yet to be named. This aircraft was bought in 2011. It had been working as executive transport in Italy. After its refit and repaint, it went straight into work in Langwathby, where the Pride of Cumbria was due a comprehensive service. It has since been busy covering both helicopters during periods of essential maintenance and unforeseen breakdown.
All of the helicopters are equipped with the latest flying technology. They are among the few air ambulances in the country to have Instrument Flight Rules which means that the pilot is able to fly the aircraft using only the instruments onboard, rather than relying on the view out of the windscreen, which is more commonly the case. They are now able to fly safely even when visibility is extremely poor, as is the case in thick cloud, and to embark on missions that they would previously have not been able to attend.
The aircraft can carry a total of 915 kilos. Usually, the crew consists of a pilot, a paramedic and a doctor. They would normally carry one patient although two can be carried if needed. They also carry all the equipment that is found on a road ambulance, as well as some of the advanced equipment normally found only in the Emergency department of hospitals.
The aircraft are serviced by Multiflight aviation engineers when they have flown 25 hours, then again at 50 hours, and then at 100 hours, before the cycle begins again. The aircraft are also checked over every day by the pilots. This thorough process means that any potential problems are quickly identified and quickly remedied. The pilots themselves are tested every six months to make sure they are fit for the job, while the paramedics are also put through annual training to keep them abreast of the latest medical advances.