FINDING a suitable site to build a new airbase for its emergency helicopter, aircrew and charity team proved to be no simple task for Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

The charity currently operates from two different sites which it leases. These are the hangar at Wiltshire Police headquarters, Devizes, for the helicopter and aircrew, while the charity team are in offices in Calne.

Operating from two different sites was always a short-term measure while the charity found a site to create a custom-built airbase. The charity says owning its own site, rather than renting, will give it control over its future and save money longer term.

The key criteria for the new airbase was to find somewhere in central Wiltshire so that its state-of-the-art Bell 429 helicopter would be able to reach all parts of the county within 11 minutes, as it currently does now from its base in Devizes.

After an exhaustive search of more than a year, the charity found its ideal site, a 12.5-acre plot at Outmarsh Farm, Semington, near Melksham.

Kevin Reed, head of operations at Wiltshire Air Ambulance, spotted the land when looking on Google Earth for potential sites.

Kevin, a former police officer who worked on Wiltshire Air Ambulance when it shared a helicopter with Wiltshire Police, said: “We considered over 20 sites, including 15 airfields and airstrips, but after much consideration our preferred site was identified at Outmarsh Farm.

“It is an excellent site because it fulfils the aviation requirements, the land is flat, the site is fairly remote from built up areas and it has good access to main arterial routes, including the A350, for when our paramedics use the rapid response vehicle (car).

“An added benefit, we felt, was because there is no ambulance station in Melksham our paramedics with their critical care skills would provide enhanced medical cover for the area for emergencies, such as road traffic collisions, heart attacks and strokes."

Kevin said airfields and military bases were ruled out because the sites have other flying operations which would be restrictive to Wiltshire Air Ambulance and the charity would not own the land.

Moving to Semington will mean the helicopter leaving its Devizes base, where it has been since 1990.

Kevin added: “Devizes has served us very well and we are proud to be part of the community. But the new airbase is a truly exciting project for the charity and also for the people of Wiltshire who support and fundraise for us.”

How to support the Airbase Appeal

You can make a donation through a special Airbase Appeal website which will process your Gift Aid too.

Donate by Text Just text BASE17 and the amount you’d like to donate to 70070. For example, BASE17 £10, BASE17 £20.

This is a free service for Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

With no network charges, every penny is donated to the charity and Gift Aid can be added to donations.

To donate by phone call Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charity Team on 01380 739453 and your donation will be processed over the phone. Just let them know your donation is for the Airbase Appeal.