North West first for Bolton MRT

This morning at 09:00 Hrs, the Bolton MRT assembled in Lever Park, Rivington for a familiarity exercise with the new North West Air Ambulance, Helimed 08, G-NWAA, named Katie.

We were honoured to be the first Mountain Rescue Team in the region covered by Helimed 08 to exercise with their brand new in-service EC135 helicopter. 28 Team members assembled to meet the aircraft, along with our Search Dog Chi and trainee Trail Dog, Sniff.

We were joined by the United Utilities Area Ranger, Hazel Gannaway and a GMAS on-duty Operational Manager.

Team Chairman Tony McNally acting as landing zone marshal upon Helimed’s arrival.

The NWAA air crew were more than pleased to show the Team members present over their new aircraft, and outlined the essential differences between this EC135 aircraft, and the Bolkow Bo105 that we are more familiar with. For us the main difference will be the ability to side-load the aircraft with a stretcher, and a totally enclosed rear rotor system, both of which will increase personnel safety aspects working around the aircraft.

Helimed 08 pilot Neil Airey shows some team members the stretcher loading bed which swivells out from the side loading door. Pilot Neil Airey is also a member of Duddon & Furness Mountain Rescue Team.

Paramedic aircrew (out of view) Nick Sutcliffe, and Justin Mawtus brief team members on the safety aspects of working around the new aircraft.

The unique totally protected rear rotor system of the NWAA EC135 helicopter is clearly in view in this shot.

Shortly after Helimed 08 had landed, we were all joined by Greater Manchester Police Air Support Unit’s helicopter, which is an MD902 Explorer.

GMP ASU India 99 comes into land next to Helimed 08.

Are these really gun turrets on the front !!

Team members assembled in front of the GMP ASU MD-902 Explorer helicopter, along with the helicopter’s aircrew, the crew of Helimed 08, GMAS Operational Manager Stuart Smith and United Utilities Ranger Hazel Gannaway.

This in itself was also an operational first having the NWAA and GMP ASU aircraft both together on the ground. It gave the respective air crews a little bit of friendy rivalry to compare their different helicopters; and our Team members a chance to closely inspect the essential differences between the two types, including the NOTAR (No Tail Rotor) system employed by the MD902 Explorer.

Both aircraft spent over one and a half hours with the Team, with their air crew being well looked after courtesy of our catering facilities (this is getting to be a habit with this particular Helimed 08 air crew!).

Familiarity exercises of this nature are absolutely essential for our Team members in order that they may safely work around air ambulance and police helicopters, likewise it gives the air crews faith in our knowledge and abilities to operate around their helicopters.

After a very thorough briefing by both air crews about their aircrafts’ capabilites, it was time for firstly the GMP ASU to depart, followed by Helimed 08 (our Team Leader who was instrumental in arranging this exercise was heard to mutter “maybe I should have contacted the RAF to get a Sea King and go for the Hat Trick! – ah well, maybe another time”).

Bolton MRT members, our search dogs, and the United Utilities Ranger look towards the camera as Helimed hovers very closely behind everybody prior to departing the exercise.

The Team is extremely grateful for the kind involvement of Bond Helicopters – the owners of Helimed 08, and the NWAA Operational Manager, Paul West in agreeing to this exercise taking place. We are also grateful to GMP for allowing the involvement of their aircraft.

The Team is also thankful to the ready co-operation of United Utilities in allowing us to land the aircraft within their Rivington estate, and to the respective air crews of both aircraft who answered all our questions with enthusiasm an genuine interest in the work of our Team.