At this moment in time (January 2019), we are not yet registered as a charity. We are completing all the paperwork and our aim is to be a truly pan-island charity by early 2019, registered with both the Guernsey Registry and the Jersey Charity Commission.
Jersey and Guernsey have a contract with Capital to provide a fixed wing plane to transport patients to the UK from both Jersey and Guernsey. The contract has been recently renewed and Capital provide both islands with an excellent service.
Air Rescue will not replace this service and will serve to enhance it when weather, visibility or multiple calls upon the fixed aircraft are made. There are also times when the aircraft has done multiple trips in a day and the pilot is unable to carry out any further trips due to flight hours being exceeded, and occasionally times where the aircraft are unavailable due to maintenance or technical faults.
Fixed wing aircraft are more cost effective to run than rotary aircraft thus the fixed wing aircraft will always be the primary option for routine medical transfers.
The UK Coastguard along with the French Coastguard have helicopters which any of the islands Coastguard teams can call upon for an Emergency at sea, if they are available, which is generally the majority of the time. Our island waters are part of the ‘Manche agreement’ which the UK, French and Channel Island authorities all agree to make available their resources for the purposes of saving life at sea.
An emergency on land, cliff line search or medical transfer does not form part of this agreement and it is this area that is the most in demand, and the reason why Air Rescue Channel Islands is being formed.
The UK Coastguard have an agreement with both Jersey and Guernsey that if an aircraft is available and the need is deemed great enough, then they will provide a helicopter on a commercial basis for transfers between Jersey and Guernsey and the UK, not inter island – these requests have been declined as far as we know. When this agreement was made it was on the rough understanding that the need would be limited to a few flights a year. Demand for this service has increased dramatically and is now substantially in excess of the perceived volume. Last year we saw nearly 30 flights, with a number also being declined. This is a huge risk due to the increased demand for this service, that this offer will be revoked as the aircraft generally used is the one covering the South Coast of the UK, and the pilots can return out of hours and unable to service their home patch.
Having an aircraft based in the islands will reduce this burden with the UK Coastguard, and will provide a greatly improved response time. There may still be times where the services of a UK helicopter would be beneficial, but this would be much more in line with the original perceived levels of demand.
There is a subtle difference. An air ambulance is where they transport specialist trauma doctors and medics to the scene of accidents, treat the patient at the scene then transport to a hospital via helicopter. Where as a medivac is where a patient is transferred from one hospital to another.
Given the ready access to ambulances and medical support, it is not envisaged Air Rescue One will operate as an air ambulance. The service it will provide is to transfer patients from Jersey and Guernsey hospitals to UK hospitals. The slight exception would be any patients in Alderney, Sark or Herm, where a more traditional Air Ambulance role may be carried out. We are currently in the process of starting discussions with the medical professionals in each of these islands, and work out if this role is required and if so, how we can deliver it.
The Channel Islands Air Search are a valuable search asset. They provide an eye in the sky and once their new aircraft is operational, they will have extensive electronic aids used for searching, including night vision.
Whilst Air Rescue will have lighting and night vision, the search profiles are very different. For a wide area search Channel Islands Air Search will be far more valuable. The aircraft and equipment is geared for large sweeps and is far more economical. For a tighter search, most likely areas identified by them, a helicopter can be more useful given it can hover and come down a lot lower than the plane is able to. Air Rescue will also be able to winch, allowing medics to be lowered onto vessels and patients lifted up.
It is envisaged that both charities will work and train closely together, and between them be able to provide an ever greater service to the islands. We are certainly looking forward to working with their team.
The project lead has direct experience with organising emergency helicopter transfers in the past 18 months in Jersey and knows the rage of reasons why they are tasked and the life saving difference it makes.
As an island community, the need for specialists emergency medical care will always be present, and we are seeing an ever increasing need for this service, to such an extend we may jeopardise the relationship with the provider of the current service who only expected a small number of transfers a year.
Our aim is to give the islands the security that day or night, there is the ability to transport a patient inter island or across to the UK a short notice. We also want to make this asset as useful to our communities as possible, so by adding the search and rescue function and fire fighting function we can make as much difference to our lives in many ways.
This is a difficult question to answer at this time (January 2019), we are still working on the exact specifications of what we require, and what time frame we can operate a 24 hour service, which may guide the choice due to night flying requirements.
It is likely we will be operating a helicopter from either Airbus or Leonardo.
We currently do not have an exact figure, as there are a lot of variables, including airport landing fees, which could add 50% to our annual running costs. We also have to discuss if we operate this service totally free of charge for all users or look at recovering some costs. At the moment health have to pay for the UK helicopter, plus landing fees, which amounts to a 5 figure sum every time a helicopter is used.
We have done our research and have the running costs of all the UK air ambulances, so have a general idea, and will openly share this. Our aim is to introduce a reduced service using a smaller helicopter initially reducing our costs in the first year dramatically.
We have not decided on this yet as this will ultimately depend on which airport offers the most flexible and cost effective service.
Opening up any airport out of hours is an expensive task (Jersey is circa £7500 per movement, Guernsey and Alderney £5k). As you can imagine this is a huge cost and one we would like to seek alternatives for. Our ideal ‘modus operandi’ would to be able to establish a site where we can and launch and return without having to meet these costs. This could be done by modifying a remote corner of an airport where the risk assessment would allow for lesser support to be required for take off and landing.
At the moment we are looking for roles such as Medical Director, Risk Manager and Legal/Contract Advisor.
Once we have completed our operational plan in early 2019 we will be looking for fundraising, finance, marketing and operational staff to join the team, then finally towards the middle of the year we will be looking for people to join the in flight medical and ground operational safety teams across all islands.
We advise any helicopter pilots in the islands to get in touch with us and discuss in confidence the opportunities that will be forthcoming.
Please keep an eye on this website and our social media channels for updates. You can also pre register your interest here.
And don’t forget you can donate if you cant spare us any time.
Our online donation partner (Jersey based Race Nation | Sports Giving) are very generously providing this service free of charge, the only deduction made from each donation is the direct card processing fee charged by the online payment provider. At our request, they will also only transfer any donated funds to us once the legal work is complete.
It is no secret that Andrew Scott-Miller, project lead of Air Rescue, was one of the founders of Race Nation back in 2013 and is still a shareholder. With no fees being charged by Race Nation other than the direct charges from the online payment provider (which are deducted at source), this is by far the most cost effective method with which to raise funds. Popular platforms such as Just Giving charge inflated card charge fees as well as adding a processing fee and a monthly platform usage fee.
Thanks to this relationship it is estimated Race Nation will save us over £50,000 in online donation fees this year, enough to fund 20 repatriation flights.
If anyone feels they wish to discuss this further then please feel free to contact us.
Our aim is to launch in the Summer of 2019, but this depends on three factors.
The first is finding a base. Spare hangar space at Guernsey or Jersey airport is in very short supply and whilst Jersey airport have new hangars due to be built they have still not agreed a start date for construction and we suspect they will not be ready until at least mid 2020.
The second factor is late night operations as the cost to open the airports at night is high. A pick up from Alderney to Guernsey with the helicopter based in Jersey would cost in excess of £35k just in out-of-hours airport fees for one tasking. Our predicted night time airport opening fees are in excess of £1.5 million a year and we do not feel this is acceptable for a publicly funded service. The solution is straightforward and we are trying to discuss it with the various airports and regulator.
The third is financial. We will be fundraising from January 2019 and need to raise the required funds to start the service. We are confident this will happen and once the funds are raised, we could start within a few weeks should all other factors be resolved.