In Pictures: On The Helipad Of The London Air Ambulance
The London Air Ambulance perches high above Whitechapel Road, gazing out on the City like a crimson hawk. We're up on the helipad of the Royal London Hospital. To the West, the Heron Tower is beginning to make its presence felt on the City skyline it will soon dominate. To the South, we spy the radio masts of Crystal Palace. Sightseeing is blocked to the East thanks to the new, blue £1 billion expansion of the hospital. And to the North lies featureless suburban London, stretching off to the hills of Barnet and Chingford.
The purview of the London Air Ambulance is even more impressive than its view. The helicopter can be called upon to deal with emergencies anywhere within the M25, a boundary it can reach in just seven minutes. But the crew provide a service that is so much more than a quick means of transportation. Dedicated paramedics are trained to treat serious injury at the trauma scene, effectively bringing the hospital to the patient, before taking the patient to hospital.
The crew typically fly three or four missions per day. During the bombings on 7 July 2005, the team made 32 trips in the helicopter and specially equipped cars. Typical emergencies might include stabbings, shootings, road smashes, suicide attempts and falls from height. It must rank as one of the most gruesome jobs in the capital, but also one of the most rewarding.
Pilots build up a mental map of wide roads, playgrounds, car parks and other open spaces where they can safely put down. The air craft can land in a surprisingly tight spot, as this image shows. They've even been known to pick up the odd parking ticket from London's overzealous traffic wardens.
Between missions, the crew relax in a small room close to the pad. It's what you'd expect: newspapers, TV, endless cups of tea. It must make a welcome refuge from the daily grind of kerb-side amputations and al fresco open-chest surgery.
The London Air Ambulance operates as a charity and relies on public donations to keep flying. If you'd like to pledge some money towards this noble cause, you'll find details here. And watch this space for an interview with one of the pilots, ahead of a BBC documentary about the service on Monday.
Last Updated 28 May 2009