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Donations ‘vital’ as air medics get £250,000 bill
A £250,000 bill for a replacement helicopter gearbox has prompted air ambulance chiefs to highlight the importance of donations from the public.
The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) was landed with the repair cost after the part came to the end of its life.
With a new gearbox for the Eurocopter Dauphin helicopter likely to cost £900,000, a reconditioned unit was found instead.
Mandy Drake, deputy director at GNAAS, said the life-saving charity needed to find £4.2m every year – plus extra money for unforeseen repairs.
She added: “Recently, fundraising has been boosted by an increase in the number of legacies people are leaving in their wills, as well as strong performances from our tin collections and lottery.
“We are grateful for this, because as we have also seen recently, unforeseen helicopter repairs can be very expensive.
“We would like to thank everyone who has ever donated, however large or small the amount, because without this support the service could not continue.”
Kevin Hodgson, director of operations at GNAAS, said every part on the helicopter has a lifespan counted in flying hours.
He added: “Gearboxes on this type of helicopter have a lifespan of 3,000 flying hours and this particular gearbox had reached the end of its life.
“Usually the engineers then recondition them for reuse but in this case the gearbox was found to have slight corrosion on its casing so it had to be replaced.
“They can cost up to £900,000 new but we were able to source a newly reconditioned one for about £250,000.”
Mr Hodgson said the charity’s helicopters flew about 350 hours a year.
“Although this is a huge amount of money for a gearbox, it shouldn’t need replacing for years to come,” he said.
Latest statistics for July 28 to September 17 show the service flew 211 missions, including 91 road accidents, 97 classified as other trauma, 21 medical emergencies and two transfers.
The helicopters spent 24 per cent of their time in Durham and Tyne and Wear, 22 per cent in Cleveland and North Yorkshire, 18 per cent in Northumberland and 36 per cent in Cumbria.