Perth-based rescue charity SCAA took to the skies on Friday with the launch of its second helicopter.
Boss John Bullough said it was a “major milestone” for the team, which has until now been serving the whole of Scotland from its base at Perth Airport since 2013.
And from 7.30am this morning, Helimed 79 was online as the newest member of Scotland's 999 emergency response network, available 365 days a year wherever in Scotland our crew is needed.
He said the expansion will help ease pressure on frontline health services.
Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance launched its ambitious bid to double its capacity and set up an additional helicopter at Aberdeen Airport two years ago.
It needs to raise £6 million to install the new helicopter at Aberdeen Airport, plus pay for its first three years of service. So far, around half the total has been collected.
The charity’s two helicopters will work alongside two Government funded choppers and two fixed-wing aircraft, which are all tasked through the country’s 999 emergency response service.
Mr Bullough, chairman of SCAA, said: “There’s never been a more crucial time for additional emergency pre-hospital care resources in Scotland and SCAA is proud to be able to strengthen the country’s air ambulance fleet.”
He said: “Within seven years, this relatively young charity has been able to sustain one helicopter and then fund a second which is a remarkable achievement for everyone involved – not least the public, whose generous support funds our entire life-saving service.
“During these difficult times, the demands on frontline emergency services has never been greater and we hope the public will continue to support us – ensuring that, with the launch of Helimed 79, we can fly more care, more quickly, to more people wherever the need arises in Scotland.”
The new Helimed was also welcomed by Tom Steele, chair of the Scottish Ambulance Service. “SCAA has proved a vital component in the 999 emergency response network, responding to nearly 2,500 emergencies since the charity launched,” he said.
“Working very closely with the Scottish Ambulance Service, SCAA has saved many lives – especially in the more remote and rural areas of Scotland – and a second helicopter will add very significant capability to the entire Scottish air ambulance fleet, bringing fast medical care to sick and injured patients as well as quick life-saving transport to hospital if required.”
SCAA’s crews and contractors have remained on site at Aberdeen to finish preparing for operations, working in isolation wherever possible to minimise risk.
All other staff, like thousands across the country, are working from home.