A HIGH FLYING life-saving Black Country charity has really taken off after buying its first very own helicopter.

The Midlands Air Ambulance officially unveiled its new £4.5million helicopter on April 3 to replace one of the three leased aircraft.

The newly registered G-OMAA EC135T2e aircraft is the Lye based charity’s first fully owned chopper in its 23-year history.

Built at Eurocopter in Germany before receiving its medical equipment fit out at Bond Air Services in Staverton earlier this year, it undertook its maiden flight in late February from Bond Air Services to the air ambulance’s RAF Cosford airbase in Shropshire where it has been carrying out numerous helicopter emergency medical service missions on a daily basis.

Previously, the charity leased all three EC135 helicopters from Bond Air Services.

But a decision was made to replace the existing leased RAF Cosford aircraft with the brand new and wholly charity owned EC135T2e helicopter.

Hanna Sebright, chief executive for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity, said the purchase would cut operating costs and strengthen the charity’s long term future – and she added: “We are delighted to unveil our new aircraft, G-OMAA, which has been named in the spirit of our commitment to delivering the very best patient care and our ability to reach a patient within a matter of minutes. It has been a much anticipated and now welcome addition to our fleet.”

The charity says it was only able to buy the new helicopter thanks to the on-going support from the public and businesses plus a generous one-off legacy, gifted in a will, from businessman Derek Bullivant.

The charity, which will continue to lease its other two air ambulances based at Tatenhill, Staffordshire, and Strensham, Worcestershire, from Bond Air Services, now plans to extend its operation into the hours of darkness in the forthcoming winter months.

Jason Levy, fundraising and marketing director for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity, said: “This will enable us to fly 12 hours a day all year round, not just during the light summer days. “The extension in operating hours will benefit the patient further as we will be able to undertake more patient transfers between lit helipads during the hours of darkness direct to major trauma centres and specialist hospitals across our region.”

Extending the out-of-hours service, however, means the charity needs to raise an additional £250,000 this year – so a new ‘GO MAA’ fundraising campaign has been launched.

Jason added: “To extend our service we need the public’s support now more than ever.”

To make a donation text GMAA01 and the donation amount to 70070.

For more information about the charity visit www.midlandsairambulance.com