Life-saving crews from the East Anglian Air Ambulance [EAAA] have moved into their new Norwich headquarters ahead of planned 24/7 operations later this summer.
The charity, which has been operating from temporary accommodation for over a year, launched its mission to deliver a round-the-clock air ambulance service in the East of England back in 2019.
Despite delays caused by the pandemic, the charity has moved into the newly built operating base at Norwich Airport this week.
The Helimed House base includes a helipad and aircraft hangar after being funded by generous gifts in wills from supporters over several years.
The Anglia One helicopter team will start flying from the base in late June, after a settling-in period.
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And the £7m development will enable the charity to have the training and welfare facilities required for a fully 24/7 helicopter operation and will make EAAA the first air ambulance in the region to fly round the clock.
The EAAA estimates it could be tasked by helicopter up to 600 more times a year, delivering critical care to those in need faster at night and closing the five-and-a-half-hour gap where there is currently no helicopter service in the region.
Planning consent was officially granted for the base in November 2019 with works starting in January 2020 before construction was halted by the coronavirus, meaning the project is six months behind schedule.
Patrick Peal, chief executive of EAAA, described the opening of the new Norwich base as a “huge milestone” for the charity and community.
He said: “Our previous headquarters were incredibly cramped, in need of several improvements and we were renting additional office space elsewhere in Norwich.
“The new base solves these problems and gives us extra facilities as well as room to grow in the future.
“We know people don’t stop having cardiac arrests, strokes or road traffic collisions when the helicopter goes offline, and we have been working towards this goal for several years.”
Developing the new 24/7 base has included buying the land for the base, making EAAA a property owner for the first time, which will save costs.