Air Alderney hits out at States’ ‘damaging publicity’
A WAR OF WORDS has broken out between one of the bidders for Alderney’s air links contract and the States of Alderney.
Air Alderney, which wants to serve the Guernsey and Southampton routes with its four Islander aircraft, recently announced it had purchased a fully equipped air ambulance helicopter for which it was seeking a licence to provide medevacs for residents in need.
Owner Danny Brem Wilson said he was in the process of setting up a charity as a vehicle for funding the non-profit enterprise and appealed to people to support the project with donations.
He is still waiting to receive an Air Operator’s Certificate from licensing authority 2-Reg for both a scheduled service and a medevac.
On Thursday, the States of Alderney released a two-line standalone statement on Air Alderney’s medevac project. ‘Currently, Alderney Air Ambulance does not possess an AOC to operate this service and the organisation is not registered, at this time, as a charity/NPO in the Bailiwick.’
Yesterday Air Alderney reacted forcefully to the States’ unexpected intervention.
‘The States of Alderney did not at any time contact us [Air Alderney] to clarify the operation position of Alderney Air Ambulance and made the statement without any consultation with us,’ it said in its own statement.
‘[It has] resulted in publicity that is both damaging not only to Air Alderney and Alderney Air Ambulance but to the island and its prospects.
‘Some comments following the statement implied we are committing some type of fraud by taking donations and are misleading the public, both of which we refute unreservedly.
‘More surprisingly, given the statement’s content, no reference was made to any other operators or their plans, which begs the question, why did SOA feel such a statement was required for Alderney Air Ambulance alone?
‘We would also like to state we have nothing to do with the project known as Channel Islands Air Rescue.’
The spokesman emphasised that neither Air Alderney nor Alderney Air Ambulance had accepted nor would accept any donations until charitable status was granted.
He said they were working hard to achieve AOC approval as soon as possible.
Explaining the plans for an Alderney-focused service, he said the speediest way to get local patients requiring emergency intervention to hospital was if the helicopter was based on Alderney.
‘Our timings on getting patients to hospital are at least 50% less solely for this reason and we believe this sets us above any service being offered or proposed at this time.
‘The team behind Air Alderney and Alderney Air Ambulance have over 40 years’ experience in the aviation industry, with one member of the team having over 20 years’ experience delivering medevac services to the Channel Islands alone.’
Air Alderney’s helicopter is a former Gloucestershire Air Ambulance Bolkow.
Last year there were six out-of-hours medevacs carried out by the coastguard helicopter, the RNLI and the Leopardess.
Island Medical Centre clinical director Dr Sally Simmons said there was a clear need for an up-to-date air ambulance to serve the island in emergencies – but it had to be the right one and it had to be viable.
‘Such a service has to have highly trained paramedics, modern up-to-date helicopters with full critical care facilities,’ she said.
‘When we have trauma cases, throwing people into the back of an aircraft just isn’t the way to move forward any longer. We’ve got to have proper resources and fully trained staff for medevacs, but with only six out-of-hours medevacs per year we also have to bear in mind how it can sustainably be operated.’
Jersey-based Channel Islands Air Rescue is also endeavouring to launch a charity-based medevac helicopter operation.
Its plans, however, are built on a pan-island and multi-task role for the aircraft.
A few weeks ago a spokesman indicated it would remove Alderney from its plans if Air Alderney’s project received local support, saying there was not the capacity or resources for two services.
Air Alderney has submitted a bid in the PSO process for the island’s Guernsey and Southampton routes.
It also wants to add Jersey and a destination in France to its operation.