Pilot Phil Lambert is looking forward to flying the replacement helicopter. Photo: Stuart Walker

Pilot Phil Lambert is looking forward to flying the replacement helicopter. Photo: Stuart Walker

A charity whose helicopters have flown to the aid of numerous outdoors enthusiasts is appealing to the public to help fund a replacement aircraft.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service’s 30-year-old Pride of Cumbria is being retired from service, to be replaced by a younger, more powerful helicopter.

It said the additional power and versatility of the Dauphin N3 aircraft will enable it to reach even more patients across the region from its base at Langwathby, near Penrith.

The helicopter is expected to begin work in April, and the charity is now appealing to people to help meet the repayment costs to keep the service flying.

Andy Mawson, director of operations at GNAAS, said: “The Pride of Cumbria has been a magnificent servant to the county and the North as a whole. She has flown many thousands of missions and been the difference between life and death for so many people.

“But she’s 30 years old now; she owes us nothing, and although she’s in great shape at present, she’s got major routine maintenance next year which will cost around £500,000. We simply cannot justify spending that much on such an old aircraft.

“The last year has been a struggle for the charity. Fundraising has been badly affected, but we needed to look beyond Covid and think about the most effective way to keep our service operating.”

The new aircraft is currently being fitted out in Leeds. Photo: GNAAS

The new aircraft is currently being fitted out in Leeds. Photo: GNAAS

The charity expects the new aircraft – whose official name is still to be confirmed – will serve the region for at least 15 years. Its helicopters are regularly scrambled to go to the aid of injured and unwell walkers and other hillgoers in the Lake District and other parts of northern England, often in support of volunteer mountain rescue teams.

The addition marks the completion of the revamp of the charity’s helicopter fleet after an initial aircraft, Guardian of the North II, went to work in GNAAS’s north-east base last summer.

Although GNAAS was able to fund the deposit on the two aircraft through savings, it now needs to raise £40,000 a month to cover the loan repayments on the helicopters, and is asking supporters to do what they can to help meet the costs.

Mr Mawson added: “We are incredibly grateful for the ongoing support we have received from the public and this new aircraft represents our commitment to the people of the North.

“We hope they are able to continue to support us, even in these difficult times, and allow us to be there when we are needed.

GNAAS pilot Phil Lambert of Kendal said: “I’ll miss the Pride of Cumbria, but I can’t wait to get started in the new one. The improved power, range and equipment onboard means we can provide an even better service, all for the benefit of the patient.”

The Pride of Cumbria is now for sale, with proceeds being reinvested back into the charity.

Donations to the air ambulance charity can be made via its website or by calling 01768 899 150.