Charity’s £250k helicopter bill

AN air ambulance charity is having to foot a £250,000 bill for a new helicopter gearbox.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) - a Eurocopter Dauphin - needed the replacement part when the old one came to the end of its life.

A brand new gearbox would have set the charity back by around £900,000, but a cheaper reconditioned unit was sought out instead.

The helicopter also needed a replacement door after its crew discovered it was “unsafe” as it landed at Durham Tees Valley Airport at around 8am on Tuesday.

As a result of the expensive upkeep of the life-saving aircraft, air ambulance chiefs today stressed the importance of donations to the charity, which needs to find at least £4.2m a year to cover costs and carry out unforeseen repairs.

Kevin Hodgson, director of operations at GNAAS, said: “Gearboxes on this type of helicopter have a lifespan of 3,000 flying hours and this particular gearbox had reached the end of its life.

“Each of our helicopters fly about 350 hours a year, so although this is a huge amount of money, it shouldn’t need replacing for years to come.”

Mandy Drake, deputy director at GNAAS, said: “Raising £4.2m every year is a daunting prospect but the people of the region have always risen to the challenge.

“We are grateful for this, because as we have also seen recently, unforeseen helicopter repairs can be very expensive. We would like to thank everyone who has ever donated because without this support the service could not continue.”

From July 28 to September 17 this year, the helicopter has been sent on 211 missions.