DEVON Air Ambulance has resumed air operations after the successful introduction of several innovative new aviation solutions, which means it can now provide greater protection for its patients and aircrew against coronavirus.

A new separation screen has been installed between the front and rear sections of the aircraft, which partitions off the pilot cockpit from the patient treatment/paramedic area.

The aircrew will also now be able to use newly designed throat microphones when they need to wear Level 3 PPE respirator masks in-flight which will improve internal and external communication.

Lastly, a new bracket has been designed which will enable a full-face visor to be worn on the aviation safety helmets. This will provide the ability for the clinicians to wear the required Level 3 PPE when carrying out medical procedures which carry a greater risk of transmitting Coronavirus.

‘Today (Wednesday) marks the culmination of lots of hard work by our teams to address the challenges that led us to ground the aircraft at the end of March,’ said Ian Payne, flight operations director at Devon Air Ambulance. These new modifications have been rapidly developed in collaboration with industry partners and approved for use by EU and UK aviation authorities, which demonstrates how we are all working together to collaborate and innovate during these difficult times.’

Ian added: ‘We would like to extend our thanks to Babcock Marine at Devonport Dockyard, Babcock Mission Critical Services Onshore in Gloucester and Headset Services Limited for all their support in getting these modifications in place in our EC135 helicopters that will help us and other air ambulances better meet the challenges of operating during Coronavirus.”

From today, the Exeter-based aircraft will once again be taking to the skies over Devon responding to patients from 7am to dusk every day. As a first step, it will be deploying to patients by air, treating them on scene and then assisting local crews to convey patients to hospital by land ambulance.

Nigel Hare, operations director said: ‘It’s clearly great news for Devon that we can restart our air operations and over the coming days and weeks we will carry out a phased reintroduction of our service. It’s important that we do this in a measured way, as our clinicians reinstate more advanced medical treatments whilst operating with new aircraft modifications and wearing in flight the PPE necessary to safeguard our patients and themselves from coronavirus.

‘Even as we start to resume air operations, our paramedics will still be responding to patients by critical care car, with at least one car operational throughout the day in addition to the aircraft.

‘As the Exeter-based aircraft goes offline at dusk, that crew will move into a critical care car ensuring we can still deliver our full critical care capabilities until 2am every day.

‘You may also see our Eaglescott aircraft flying as we use this time to carry out more training and simulation so that all our teams are well-prepared to continue moving forward to meet the challenges of operating at this time.’