Confirmed: Duke of Cambridge will join East Anglian Air Ambulance as a pilot from next spring
14:37 07 August 2014
The Duke of Cambridge will start training next month to join the East Anglian Air Ambulance as a full-time pilot from next spring.
• It was first founded in Norfolk in 1998, in response to the Air Sea Rescue squadron moving from RAF Coltishall in Norfolk to RAF Wattisham in Suffolk.
• It started operating just one day a week, but has grown significantly over the years and now has two helicopters, one based in Norwich and another in Cambridge.
• The charity now operates 365 days a year, covering Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Bedford.
• It costs £7.5m each year to provide the charity’s service and it employs around 40 to 50 people as salaried staff.
• Key partners include the East of England Ambulance Service and local hospitals, as well as Bond Air Services.
The second in line to the throne will fly on day and night missions from the charity’s base at Cambridge Airport.
Confirming the news, EAAA chief executive Patrick Peal said today: “It’s a great honour for us to have the Duke fly with us and we’re delighted he’s chosen this charity to support in such a direct way.
“It’s a demanding role and I’m sure that he will fulfil that role extremely capably.
“It will, of course, bring more interest to this air ambulance charity and the work of air ambulance charities across the UK.”
Many air ambulance pilots are ex-military, and the charity says it is confident Prince William’s experience as an RAF search and rescue pilot makes him well-qualified to join them as a pilot.
But first he will need to gain his civilian pilot’s licence, for which he will start training next month.
The helicopters he will fly
• The plan is for the Duke of Cambridge to be based in Cambridge, where he will be mostly flying the charity’s new EC145 T2 helicopter, which is currently in production and is not expected to become operational until spring next year.
• The EC145 will be able to carry two pilots, three HEMS crew, one patient, and enough fuel to fly for over two hours with a range of nearly 300 nautical miles.
• It will be equipped to operate at night.
• In contrast, the current EC135 T2e, can carry one pilot, two HEMS crew and a patient for 90 minutes with a range of 186 nautical miles.
• Once he has passed all his extra training, the Duke of Cambridge will be able to fly either the EC135 or the EC145.
EAAA aviation consultant Gerry Hermer said while the Duke would need to undertake extra training to prepare him for HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) missions and to familiarise him with their aircraft, the role would be similar to his previous job in Anglesey.
He said: “It’s very similar apart from we don’t fly over the sea and we don’t have a winch.
“He will be reacting to emergency 999 calls and he will go and land wherever is suitable.”
A Kensington Palace spokesman said the Duke was “very much looking forward to” the next step in his career.
The Duke will start as a co-pilot but, after a period of training, will be qualified to fly as a helicopter commander.
This job will be the Duke’s primary occupation, but his roster will take into account the duties and responsibilities he will continue to undertake on behalf of The Queen, both in the United Kingdom and overseas.
In common with all other East Anglian Air Ambulance pilots, The Duke will be formally employed by Bond Air Services. It is believed to be the first time a member of the Royal Family in the direct line of succession will sign an employment contract with a civilian employer.
He will draw a salary which he will donate in full to charity.
The Duke will begin training for his Air Transport Pilot’s Licence (Helicopter) in September, which is estimated to take a minimum of five months to complete and will culminate in 14 examinations and a flight test.
He will continue to undertake engagements on behalf of The Queen and his charitable affiliations during this time.
Despite his high profile and royal status, the charity is keen for its staff and partners to treat the new recruit like any other employee.
Mr Peal said: “We have already got terrific support from donors across the region and if having His Royal Highness as one of our pilots helps to interest more people in the work of the East Anglian Air Ambulance and other similar air ambulance charities, that can only be good for the level of support and security of funding for us.
“We rely totally on donations from the public to keep this service flying.”
There had been speculation surrounding the move since Prince William ended his active service as an RAF Search and Rescue pilot in September last year.
His main duties will involve flying an EC145 T2 aircraft, working alongside medics to respond to emergencies ranging from road accidents to heart attacks.
The Duke will fly missions in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire.
As new parents, William and Kate are expected to split their time between their new home at Anmer Hall near Sandringham in Norfolk and their apartment at Kensington Palace.
Cambridge Airport is well placed with transport links to both.
Alastair Wilson, the charity’s medical director, said he felt the Duke was well-suited to the role.
“He’s an extraordinary person and it’s just great that he wants to come and do something like this and fly with a charity like the air ambulance,” Mr Wilson added.
“The pilot is part of the team and he will be looking after patients with conditions that would be horrifying for many and some pilots may not like that very much.
“Compared to his role as a search and rescue pilot, he may be dealing with more injury patients than he is used to, but I’m sure he will adapt very well to that.”
FOR MORE ON THIS STORY AND A SPECIAL REPORT ON WHAT THE DUKE CAN EXPECT TO FACE IN HIS NEW ROLE - SEE TOMORROW’S PAPER.