East Anglian Air Ambulance celebrates 15 years of saving lives


- Credit: Archant

Its bright yellow helicopters have become a common sight in the skies above East Anglia, but it was only 15 years ago that our much-loved air ambulance was first founded.

Since then there have been seven helicopters and 16,000 missions across Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Befordshire for the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA).

On Friday, the charity celebrated its 15th anniversary thanks to the incredible support it has received from the public over the past decade and a half.

After a fund-raising appeal was launched, but by December 2000 the charity had raised enough money for the service to fly one day a week.

By March 2001 it was in service five days a week and by July of that year it became a seven day a week operation with an average of four missions a day.

Today the charity operates two state-of-the-art helicopters, operating from 7am to 7pm Norwich Airport and from 7am to 1.30am at the base at Cambridge Airport.

Three of the key people who founded the charity - Gerry Hermer, Patrick Peal and Andrew Egerton-Smith - are all still involved today.

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Mr Hermer was managing director of Norwich-based Sterling Aviation when the charity was founded, and played a key role in identifying the need for an air ambulance and providing its first helicopter.

Now the charity’s aviation consultant, Mr Hermer said: “I was really keen to be involved in setting up an air ambulance but I had to convince the other two directors that it was worth investing in.

“It meant taking a risk of buying a helicopter capable of doing it, without any guarantee that there would be the income to make it happen.

“Helicopters are very expensive to buy and run and it was a concern that if fundraising wasn’t successful we would end up with a large loss.

“I’m really proud we took the risk and pushed it through. We have now got the newest air ambulance helicopter in the country and the most capable.”

Mr Peal, who for many years was a trustee and is now EAAA chief executive, said: “We had such high hopes and such ambitions, but we could never have imagined that we could develop the service as far as we have in 15 years and that is all due to our supporters across the region.

“They have made it possible for us to invest in the service and built it up to how it is today.”

For more information on the work of the East Anglian Air Ambulance, visit www.eaaa.org.uk or call 08450 669 999.

Do you have a story about how the air ambulance saved someone’s life? Call reporter Daniel Mansfield on 01353 665521.