September the 27th to October the 5th saw the first amateur radio International Air Ambulance Week.
To allow for two weekends of operation, this was a 9 day event with over 20 stations across the UK, as well as stations in Australia and India operating to raise awareness for the donation-funded medical helicopter services.
In support of the Essex Air Ambulance, members of Essex Ham took to the air using the special callsign of GB2EAA (Essex Air Ambulance).
This air ambulance service operates from the Earls Colne Airfield, close to Colchester, and thanks to the support of the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust and the friendly team at Anglian Flight Centres, the team was able to set up stations adjacent to the flight centre, offering the team excellent views of the runway, airbase and flight school.
The callsign GB2EAA was active for a total of three days – one at each weekend, plus a midweek day of operation. Stations operated on both HF and VHF, with most of the 200 or so contacts being made on 40m. On the final day of operation, a CW station on 30m added a number of European stations to our logs. The team was able to work a total of eight of the other 20 stations in the UK operating for International Air Ambulance Week.
On our second day of operation, and after the air ambulance’s third callout of the day, the crew took time out of their schedule to pay our HF station a visit.
To allow the crew to find out what amateur radio was all about, the Essex Ham team was very happy to let Critical Care Paramedic Louise Rosson and Critical Care Doctor Matt O'Mara pass guest messages, with the help of an amateur in Grimsby.
The Essex Ham team was then treated with the chance to get up close and personal with helicopter, learning about the equipment on board, and the complexities of landing a helicopter at the scene of an incident, often under very difficult conditions.
The Essex and Herts Air Ambulances need to raise £440,000 a month to keep the craft in the air performing their vital life-saving service. Essex Air Ambulance pilot Captain Nicky Smith:
The raising of funds is a massive task. It’s a really difficult job raising £440,000 every month and we’d like to send a huge thank you to everyone who supports us.
In addition to the pilot, each mission flown by the Essex Air Ambulance carries a Paramedic and a Doctor, as Critical Care Doctor Matt O'Mara explains:
We try to focus our efforts on the sickest and the most injured patients out there whose needs aren’t necessarily going to be met by the statutory ambulance service. It’s the people of Essex who own the Air Ambulance who very generously go out and raise money, such that when we do land, local people in Essex recognise that it’s their air ambulance.
On the final day of operations from the Earls Colne Airbase, the weather turned against us, forcing us inside. Just before the weather closed in though, two of the Essex Ham team were lucky enough to be offered a flight around North Essex in a Piper Cherokee. Jim 2E0RMI and Pete M0PSX had a birds-eye view of the Earls Colne Airfield before flying over some of the locations that Essex Hams have activated before, such as the LV18 Light Vessel, the Harwich High Lighthouse and Walton Pier.
Air Ambulance services around the country offer a first-class and vital service, and they need your support. To support the work of the Essex Air Ambulance, please go to http://www.essexairambulance.uk.com/how-you-can-help/donate.aspx
Essex Ham would like to express its thanks to the flight crew of the Essex Air Ambulance, the Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust, and the great team at Anglian Flight Centres in Earls Colne for making this event possible and for making us so welcome.
More information and photos at www.essexham.co.uk/eaa