Royal official opening for Almondsbury helibase

Photo of a large group of attendees standing in front of the air ambulance.

Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) welcomed His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester to officially open their new purpose-built emergency operations base in Almondsbury on Wednesday 25th September.

Moving to the new site, located alongside the M4/M5 motorway interchange, was a huge milestone for the life-saving charity, which celebrated its tenth birthday last year.

GWAAC’s Critical Care Team moved into their new home in October 2018, after a successful capital appeal raised £1.3 million needed to purchase the site and secure the future of the charity’s operations.

During his visit, His Royal Highness met a range of people who all made last year’s purchase possible, from charity staff and operational crew to supporters, trustees, patrons and volunteers.

Amongst some of the 80 guests were also members of the South Western Air Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT) and Babcock Mission Critical Services, who provide the charity’s helicopter, Helimed 65.

Photo of The Duke meeting former patient Ali Layard.

The Duke was given a tour of the new facilities, which culminated in the hangar, where he unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the official opening and met a former patient of GWAAC, Ali Layard and the specialist paramedic who attended to him, Pete Sadler.

The Duke gave a speech to guests after unveiling the plaque, saying:

“It’s great to see such a splendid building which has all the equipment you need to do such an important job. It’s clear to see how passionate everyone here is about the charity and all the important work that it does.”

GWAAC chief executive, Anna Perry, said:

“We were delighted to welcome His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester to the base today for the official opening – the event was the perfect opportunity to get everyone who helped make this possible together and celebrate the hard work that has gone in to this move over the last year, allowing us to keep providing our life-saving service to those who need it the most. Without everyone here today, this would not have been possible, and we were honoured to show His Royal Highness the incredible work that we do here at Great Western Air Ambulance Charity.”

Also in attendance on the day were representatives from the National Police Air Service (NPAS), who lease half of the base for their operations. Almondsbury is one of 14 NPAS bases across the country. The network provides borderless air support to police forces across England and Wales 24/7, 365 days a year, flying to around 20,000 tasks annually. Air crews and a single NPAS helicopter operate from Almondsbury – in the first year at the base, crews have flown to more than 1,200 tasks.

Chief superintendent Scott Bisset, chief operating officer of NPAS, said:

“The base at Almondsbury provides NPAS with an excellent facility and we’re grateful to GWAAC for allowing us to share their building. Our crews fly from here supporting police forces across the South West and beyond on tasks such as searching for suspects and missing people, vehicle pursuits and the policing of major disturbances and events. We’re delighted to have welcomed His Royal Highness and guests as part of the opening event.”

Related link: New helicopter base near the M4/M5 Almondsbury Interchange (The Journal)

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 2 & 3). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH (except August), to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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