Welcome to Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex

Who we are

...and what we do.

In Kent, Surrey and Sussex, around 2,500 people call 999 every day. Our own dispatchers screen all of these calls and will send one of our crews to help people who are critically unwell or severely injured.​​

Our highly skilled pilots then work as fast as possible to get the medical team to the scene. All of our pilots are highly experienced – and they need to be, as they often need to land in challenging places.

Each of our medical teams operates with a doctor who usually specialises in anaesthesia or emergency medicine, and a paramedic accustomed to challenging environments and trained in critical care. Together, they bring advanced care out of the hospital and directly to the patient – saving precious time and giving them the best possible chance.

We want to make sure we are available each and every time someone needs us. For 18 hours of the day, we operate with two crews. For the remaining six hours (midnight to 6am), when it is quieter but there are still people out there who need us, we operate with one crew.

Our charity headquarters and forward operating base are located at Rochester Airport, with our aircraft hangared and maintained at Redhill Aerodrome. When the call comes, our aircraft can reach any part of our region within 25 minutes.

Our history

Inspired by the progress of Cornwall and London launching their own air ambulances, founder Kate Chivers was amongst the team, determined to make Kent the third county to launch a dedicated air ambulance service.

On 6th November 1989, the South East Thames Air Ambulance was born. On that day Sir Peter Baldwin KCB, Chairman of the Regional Health Authority signed an agreement with Mr Kenneth McAlpine, Chairman of McAlpine Helicopters to operate the specially equipped Twin Squirrel, G-SETA out of Rochester Airport.

The very first mission of the South East Thames Air Ambulance was December 23rd 1989, and showed the life-saving potential of the service.

Sixteen-year-old Michelle Leather, who lives near Tenterden, was flown to the William Harvey Hospital, Ashford and was receiving treatment within seven minutes of being released by the helicopter's paramedic team.

The initial agreement in 1989 was for McAlpine Helicopters Ltd to provide the helicopter and pilot free for six months while the health authority underwrote the costs. In 1990 the Air Ambulance Appeal was launched and six months later a lottery that raised £200,000 a year, to help keep the life-saving crew flying.

At the time, Kent's Chief Ambulance Officer stated: "There is no doubt that lives have been saved. In its first week of service, it answered eight calls. In two of those, it was considered that the patient would probably have died had treatment not got there so quickly."


Advice, news, events and specialist insight from the Harris Hill Blog