The Wales Air Ambulance Charity has this week unveiled its new aircraft, named by the people of Wales, and its new Rapid Response Vehicles.
The lifesaving service, funded through charitable donations, funds a fleet of rapid response vehicles and aircraft. They are equipped with some of the most advanced medical equipment in the world which enables the medical crew to deliver emergency department treatments at the scene of an emergency.
In 2022, the Charity underwent a rebrand and this week the public has seen a glimpse of a new aircraft which carries the new design. During the summer, Charity supporters were given the opportunity to name the helicopter. They took part in an online vote to choose their preferred aircraft registration from a list of five options. The clear winner was G-LOYW, which means bright or shining in Welsh.
Earlier this year, Wales Air Ambulance announced that Gama Aviation Plc had successfully bid for a seven-year aviation contract, which covers the operation and maintenance of a primary fleet of four Airbus H145 helicopters. Currently, the service has three H145 helicopters and one smaller H135 helicopter. As part of the new contract, the H135 aircraft will be upgraded to a H145, giving the Charity a consistent fleet of advanced helicopters to deliver Wales’ vital air ambulance service.
The Charity is also updating its fleet of rapid response vehicles, with the recent introduction of two Volvo CX90s. This allowed for the new branding to be introduced onto these vehicles alongside the aircraft.
The whole design process was delivered in-house by the Charity’s Communication Team, co-managed by Lauren Berry, Creative Digital Designer and Laura Slate, Communications and Engagement Manager.
Ms Berry said: “Working on the livery for an aircraft and rapid response vehicle was something none of us had ever done before. It was a challenge for the Charity’s Communications Team but one we took great pride in. To have been able to complete the project in-house is a huge achievement for us, and we’re incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity.
“There were a lot of things to consider during the design phase, from identifying the best materials to use and understanding the legislation in place for both vehicles. Both vehicles presented challenges, but with the support of the Charity’s partners, we have been able to create something that we are proud of.”
The team collaborated with Charity partners, Gama Aviation and The Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS) throughout the process to ensure compliance with the safety guidelines.
Both the aircraft and rapid response vehicles maintain their strong Welsh identity, with a bold red colour and distinctive green dragon’s tail that matches the Charity’s new logo. The design also includes contour lines, which are green on the aircraft and yellow (high-vis material) on the RRVs. They are representative of the diverse geographical landscape of Wales, much like those on an Ordnance Survey map, and are symbolic of the different areas and communities that the Charity serves.
While the design was added to the aircraft by Gama Aviation, the new rapid response vehicles underwent a complete transformation to adapt them from standard road cars to emergency service vehicles. This was undertaken by a Welsh company, Polaris.
Dr Sue Barnes, Wales Air Ambulance Chief Executive, said: “Whenever we survey our supporters, the Charity’s strong Welsh identity is always highlighted as a source of pride. It’s important that the passion for our nation is visible through the vehicles that we use, both in terms of their design and the Welsh language registrations for our helicopters.
“Both the helicopters and cars are funded by the people of Wales, so it is incredibly important to us that they reflect the country and communities that we serve.”
Mark Smith, Managing Director Special Mission for Gama Aviation, said: “It has been great to work with the Charity to implement the evolution of their brand onto the helicopter and road vehicle fleet, allowing us to bring both design teams together to collaborate on how we can realise a 2D design on a 3D shape.
“For me, the change is also symbolic. The delivery of the helicopter in the new livery represents the commencement of an exciting new partnership between us, EMRTS and the Charity. Operations will commence in earnest shortly and we are looking forward to playing our part in the delivery of pre-hospital support to the people and communities of Wales.”
Mark Winter, EMRTS Operations Director, added: “Our response cars play a vital part in taking critical care to our patients, the new livery for the response vehicles has been worked through with our Charity colleagues following feedback from our communities.
“We are very pleased with the design and the collaborative spirit shown by all those involved.”
The air ambulance service in Wales is delivered via a unique Third Sector and Public Sector partnership. The Wales Air Ambulance Charity relies on public donations to raise the £11.2 million required every year to keep the helicopters in the air and rapid response vehicles on the road. The Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS) supplies highly skilled NHS consultants and critical care practitioners who work on board the Charity’s vehicles.
G-LOYW will join the existing fleet of H145-model helicopters later this year. The Volvo CX90 rapid response vehicles are now operational. The remaining aircraft and vehicles will be rebranded over the coming months as and when they undertake their regular servicing.