Wales Air Ambulance and the Welsh Rugby Union have launched a project to establish hundreds of potential landing sites for the helicopter charity on rugby pitches across Wales.
The WRU will be working with the charity to coordinate an extensive list of surveyed grounds that the lifesaving air ambulances can use when they need to land in the area for emergencies.
Wales Air Ambulance questionnaires will be sent out to all 302 WRU member clubs asking them to indicate whether their grounds are suitable for emergency use at night by the helicopters.
The partnership was launched with the help of the Wales squad as they posed for their official squad picture ahead of their RBS 6 Nations title defence, which opens against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
A large selection of the 300-plus rugby pitches in Wales has been identified as potential landing sites in emergencies.
If clubs respond positively to the WAA questionnaire on site visits will take place to assess the potential of the pitches as landing sites.
WAA clinical and operations manager Jason Williams said:“As an air ambulance operation, our crews can land anywhere during a mission, but having dedicated landing sites that are already surveyed means we can land safely in the heart of communities a lot faster.
“Having a register of well-lit pitches also means we could potentially land in poor visibility or even at night,” he added.
The 36-man Wales squad lined up with Wales Air Ambulance’s latest aircraft, which was introduced in November after a year-long fundraising campaign to replace its aging predecessor. The ‘new generation’ model is the most advanced air ambulance in the UK.
WAA chief executive Angela Hughes said:“We’re absolutely thrilled that this partnership has taken off with the Welsh Rugby Union. Having registered landing sites is a huge step forward in our on-going development and mission for the people of Wales.”
WRU head of communications John Williams said:“The Welsh rugby Union is in a particularly unique position to be able to help the Wales Air Ambulance service.
“We have over 300 member clubs and we will be sending each of them the Wales Air Ambulance questionnaire.
“Hopefully this will reveal a rich resource in landing sites around Wales for the WAA and we are delighted to be able to help such a worthy organization in this small way.”
Wales Air Ambulance notes
· Wales Air Ambulance is an all-Wales charity providing vital emergency air cover for those who face life-threatening illness or injuries.
· Wales Air Ambulance is 11 years old. The service has carried out over 17,000 missions to date since its launch on St David’s Day 2001.
· Each mission costs approximately £1500.
· From its airbases in Swansea, Caernarfon and Welshpool, an air ambulance can be anywhere in Wales within 20 minutes of an emergency call.
· The fast response times and ability to reach difficult locations increases the chances of getting to a hospital within the ‘Golden Hour’. This is the first sixty minutes after trauma, and a patient’s survival and early recovery are greatly improved if they receive the most appropriate care within this crucial hour.
· The cost of sustaining the three helicopters currently stands at £6 million each year. As a registered charity the service is wholly dependent on public donations, and does not receive any support from the national lottery or the government.
· Visit walesairambulance.com I call 0844 85 84 999