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Experienced helicopter pilot Rob Backus said he is delighted to have rejoined Wiltshire Air Ambulance.
Backus flew the MD 902 Explorer for three years when the charity was sharing the helicopter with Wiltshire Police. When the joint helicopter contract came to an end in December 2014, Backus moved into search-and-rescue with Bristow Helicopters flying the Sikorsky S-92 all round the U.K.
Wiltshire Air Ambulance is now a stand-alone air ambulance and with the charity’s imminent move to its new airbase at Semington, near Melksham; Backus said he joined at an exciting time in the charity’s development.
“It’s great to be back,” he said. “I leapt at the opportunity to rejoin Wiltshire Air Ambulance in our brand-new, purpose-built airbase, flying the latest generation helicopter and working alongside first class paramedics saving lives day and night.”
Backus was at the new airbase when the building was officially handed over to the charity last month and joined colleagues in watching Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s Bell 429 helicopter flying in and landing on the helipad for the first time.
“Watching our helicopter fly in and land at the new airbase was a really special moment,” said Backus. “The building looks absolutely fantastic, and I think working there will make the charity more efficient, as the operational staff and the charity staff will both be there, and it will be a more welcoming facility for our supporters and patients to visit.”
Backus has been a helicopter pilot for 19 years and has flown 3,400 hours.
He began flying at the age of 17 thanks to a Royal Navy flying scholarship, before joining the Royal Navy for 19 years. The final 10 years of his military service were in the Fleet Air Arm flying the EH101 Merlin all round the world on operations. Backus was the first Royal Navy pilot to go through ab-initio training for the Merlin helicopter.
He knew all of the pilots and many of the paramedics at Wiltshire Air Ambulance before he re-joined in February 2018 as a full-time pilot. He had not flown a Bell 429 helicopter before, but has been impressed with its features.
“It’s more hi-tech and modern, particularly with electronic screens. It’s also a fast helicopter, it’s smooth and has sufficient space in the back for the patient and paramedics. It’s a very clearly laid out aircraft, and I like the display in the cockpit,” he said.
Wiltshire Air Ambulance has to raise £3.25 million (US$4.6 million) a year to keep flying and saving lives, and Backus is full of admiration for everyone who fundraises for the charity, supported by the hard-working fundraising and administrative team.
“Everyone who donates or fundraises for us makes a huge difference,” he said. “Any donation, however small, helps to keep us flying and saving lives.”
A keen sports enthusiast, Backus is going to be fundraising for Wiltshire Air Ambulance by running the Bath Half Marathon in 2019, postponed from this year due to snowy conditions. He has also uploaded a photo for the heli mosaic which will be created at the new airbase.