In 1991, the board of the Lincolnshire Ambulance NHS Trust, of which our first Chairman the late John Hill was a member, decided to explore the possibility of providing an air ambulance for Lincolnshire.
John’s first job was to recruit a Board of Trustees and a fundraiser. Dr Alan Sagar played a key role in those early days, together with Mike Ruffle, Mike Gillon, Ian Massey and Dr Cyril Nyman.
With a Board of Trustees in place, fundraising began. Our first fundraiser, Thirza Hart, started recruiting volunteers, one of whom – Judy Johnston (pictured in the centre of this photo), still works for us today. Mike Ruffle came up with the name ‘Ambucopter’ and his son, Glen, drew the logo of a helicopter within a heart which has remained our beloved insignia ever since.
After three years of planning and public fundraising, the Lincolnshire Air Ambulance first became operational on April 3, 1994, with our first airlift taking place on May 13, 1994.
In those early days our helicopter, an ex-Police Bolkow aircraft (G-PASC), only flew when we had sufficient income meaning it was often grounded for months at a time while fundraising took place. The helicopter had enough room for a crew of three – one pilot and up to two paramedics. It had a top speed of around 165mph.
But, by March 1995, a two-year sponsorship deal with the Lincolnshire Standard newspaper group, allowed us to fly 365 days a year. A year later we extend our service to cover Nottinghamshire with another sponsorship deal, this time from the Nottingham Post.
In 2000 we said farewell to our Bolkow and moved to a new generation of aircraft, an MD902 Explorer (G-LNAA). This helicopter could accommodate a crew of 4 – one pilot, a doctor and two paramedics. It had a top speed of 160mph.
This helicopter served the Charity well and in November 2010 we upgraded to a newer MD902 (G-LNCT). In October 2013 we started undertaking missions after the hours of darkness allowing us to fly 7am-7pm.
In June 2017 we said goodbye to our MD902 and started to fly an AgustaWestland 169 (G-LNAC) – a top of the range Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) aircraft. The state of the art helicopter is bigger than any helicopter we have ever flown – offering head to toe access to patients in flight, can fly in excess of 200mph and can carry a crew of 3 – two pilots and up to three medical crew.
Just three months after its arrival our crew started carrying blood on board, allowing them to deliver potentially life-saving blood transfusions at the scene for the first time.
We recently took the bold step to begin increasing our operational hours from 12 to 24 hours a day; in doing so we will reach hundreds more patients every year.
With this move will come the need to raise £4 million every year to support our 24/7 operations – something we can only do with your support!