THE shell of a helicopter is being transformed into a training facility for medics from around the world thanks to a group of students in County Durham.
The fuselage of a Dauphin aircraft is being renovated at South West Durham Training (SWDT), based in Newton Aycliffe.
It was part of an entire aircraft bought for parts by the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), which does not receive Government funding and must therefore raise around £5m every year to survive.
With everything else utilised, the charity had the idea of keeping the remaining fuselage for its training courses.
The fuselage is from the same model as the three aircraft operated by GNAAS, so it offers an opportunity for medics to experience what it is like to work within the confines of an air ambulance.
However, as an empty shell, it needs revamping to make the experience as realistic as possible.
Colin Clark, GNAAS paramedic said: “Using the parts saved us a lot of money but we decided to keep the fuselage as well to use it when we run our courses. It will also help new doctors and paramedics train and gain experience in a realistic setting.
“We looked for a local firm to work with and got in touch with SWDT who were more than happy to help us out.”
Approximately 60 people will be working on the fuselage including apprentices and full-time learners from Bishop Auckland College and SWDT.
Jason Howe, General Manager, SWDT said: “When we told the students about it they were so enthusiastic because it’s an enormous project which will give them real-life hands on experience.
“We’ve started work already. We plan to fabricate it, do some welding, use our 3D printer to print out some parts, paint it and add graphics to make it look just like the GNAAS air ambulances.
“Inside we’re going to custom make the interior so that it matches what the current GNAAS aircraft have, and install CCTV with screens outside the fuselage so people can see what is happening inside.
“There are plans for lights and speakers to be installed and we’ll be putting in drawers, oxygen bottles, and other pieces such as a defibrillator and ventilator inside so it looks just like the real thing.”
Colin added: “It’s a great opportunity for the apprentices and other learners involved to work on an aircraft and it shows the fantastic and loyal support GNAAS has from the people of the North.”
GNAAS offers pre-hospital healthcare training to medics from around the world. Recent participants from Costa Rica and the Netherlands visited to learn from the region’s air ambulance.
The project is expected to be completed by September 2018.