THE Yorkshire Air Ambulance is celebrating 20 years of providing a lifesaving emergency response for five million people.

An independent charity flying two helicopters every day, its highly skilled teams respond to more than 1,500 incidents, treat more than 1,100 patients and fly more than 330 patients to major trauma centres and other hospitals, each year.

Founded on October 25, 2000 operating a leased helicopter from a portakabin at Leeds Bradford Airport, income from the year stood at just over £1m. The service moved to new offices four years later.

In 2006 chairman, Peter Sunderland joined the charity and a new aircraft joined the fleet. On September 20 that year, it was called to a crash at Elvington Airfield near York when Top Gear Presenter Richmond Hammond was involved in a serious car crash.

The following year when Helicopter Heroes first aired on BBC1 it was presented, aptly, by Richard Hammond. A second helicopter, was added to the fleet in 2008 – income this year hit the £3m mark.

In 2012 YAA opened its Northern Airbase at RAF Topcliffe near Thirsk, making it quicker to respond to incidents in the north of the region.

Three years later, the state-of-the-art Air Support Unit at Nostell Priory Estate, near Wakefield was officially opened. The following year two new helicopters were taken into operation.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Other key medical and operational advancements for the charity were introduced. Night vision imaging systems enabled the extension of operational hours and carrying blood on board, meant critically-injured patients can receive transfusions at the scene of an incident or in the air.

A familiar sight across North Yorkshire, YAA helicopters treated 252 patients in the last financial year, the most common calls being cardiac arrests and falls from height. Many of the patients return the favour by doing their own vital fundraising.

In the last week YAA have been busy locally, with two traffic incidents involving a motorcyclists in Ryedale and Whitby and a mental health related incident in Hambleton.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Fundraising director Helen Callear said: “We would like to thank all of our supporters for their continued support and generosity over the last 20 years. It is thanks to you that the Yorkshire Air Ambulance is able to deliver a state of the art emergency service across the entirety of Yorkshire and that during our 20 years we have been able to fly 8,100 patients to major trauma centres to have the treatment they required.

“It costs £12,000 a day to keep both of Yorkshire’s air ambulances maintained and in the air and this year, the charity has seen a substantial fundraising income loss due to the pandemic.

“The support we receive really is the life-blood of charity and can make a huge difference to the lives of people across the region. Your continued generosity will help us continue saving lives across Yorkshire.”