A FORMER police officer who was part of the pioneering crew that helped pave the way for the development of Wiltshire Air Ambulance has made a special visit to the charity as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Inspector Brian Murdoch, who lives near Salisbury, was involved in setting up the Air Support Unit (ASU) and was in charge of it when it began operating full-time from 1990. He worked there until 1993.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance shared a helicopter with Wiltshire Police from March 15, 1990 to December 31, 2014. It was not until January 2015, that Wiltshire Air Ambulance became a stand-alone air ambulance using a Bell 429 helicopter and in May 2018 the charity moved into its purpose-built airbase in Semington, near Melksham

The visit to the airbase was attended by many of the pilots, police officers and paramedics who were part of the early, pioneering aircrew and were able to see the advances that have taken place in both aviation and medical care.

Brian, who is now retired, said: “It was wonderful working on the joint helicopter. Wiltshire Police’s motto was ‘first and best’ and we laid claim to that for the ASU because we were the first combined police helicopter and air ambulance in the country.”

Salisbury Journal:

“It’s wonderful to see how Wiltshire Air Ambulance has developed. While technology has moved on, what hasn’t changed among the team is the nucleus of professionalism, enthusiasm and commitment," he added.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance is called to, on average, three incidents a day in its helicopter and rapid response vehicles. In 2019, it carried out 1,233 missions, an increase of 12 per cent on the previous year.

Paramedic Alan Morris, who first worked at the ASU from 1990 to 1993 and latterly became an operations manager for the ambulance service in Wiltshire, was also one of the visitors to the airbase.

Alan, who is retired and lives in Warminster, said: “There was a selection process for paramedics to work on Wiltshire Air Ambulance and from the beginning those of us who worked on it didn’t want to be seen as someone special. We wanted to be accepted by the rest of our ambulance colleagues in Wiltshire as paramedics, but we were using a different mode of transport.

“We had a great rapport with the pilots and the police observers at the ASU – everyone did their bit. We saw it as an honour to work there and we were ambassadors for Wiltshire Air Ambulance and Wiltshire Police.

“As time went on the paramedics on Wiltshire Air Ambulance developed additional skills and this improved the service to the public. The ambulance service gives a good grounding for paramedics before they work on Wiltshire Air Ambulance and long may it continue.”

Salisbury Journal:

Kevin Reed, a former police officer who worked at the ASU and is now head of facilities and security at Wiltshire Air Ambulance, said: “It was a privilege to welcome former crew members to our airbase. Many of them had not seen each other since working together in the early 1990s so it was a great opportunity to catch up and reminisce on their experiences in those early and pioneering years.

“We owe everyone who worked at the ASU our gratitude, as collectively they helped paved the way for the development of Wiltshire Air Ambulance to what it is today - a stand-alone air ambulance delivering critical care to people who are seriously injured or unwell.”

Wiltshire Air Ambulance relies on donations to continue its life-saving work. It is not funded directly by the Government and receives no National Lottery grants. It costs £3.75 million a year to keep the air ambulance flying - just over £10,000 per day. To find out more about the charity click here.