US military aircraft leaves UK hospital helipad out of action after training exercise

22 April 2021, 19:24

An Osprey helicopter
An Osprey helicopter. Picture: PA

By Harriet Whitehead

Patients cannot be airlifted directly to the East of England's major trauma centre after a US military aircraft damaged its helipad during a training exercise.

A video shows parts of the helipad at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge blowing up from the ground as a United States Air Force (USAF) CV22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft took off from it on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust said ambulances will temporarily land at nearby Cambridge City Airport and patients are then transferred to the hospital in road ambulances with critical care staff on board, "meaning we can continue to see and treat them as normal."

Repair work on the helipad at Addenbrooke's Hospital, which is used by the region's three air ambulances, is under way.

A spokesperson for the three air ambulances, the East Anglian Air Ambulance, Magpas Air Ambulance and Essex and Herts Air Ambulance, said it is hoped the helipad will be back in use "soon".

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In a statement, the spokesperson said: "Due to an incident at the Cambridge University Hospitals helipad involving a military aircraft on Wednesday April 21 the helipad is temporarily unavailable to air ambulances.

"The next closest helipad is at Cambridge City Airport, where one of the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) teams is based.

"It will be possible for the EAAA helipad to be used as an alternative landing site during this time and have patients transferred to Addenbrooke's from there by land ambulance, with critical care staff onboard.

"Addenbrooke's is the major trauma centre for the region, therefore quick and efficient transfer of critically ill or injured patients to the hospital is vital.

"Using the EAAA helipad is the best alternative while the CUH helipad is reinstated.

"The situation has been handled incredibly well by all parties involved and we are optimistic that the site will be back in use soon."

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The USAF Osprey aircraft can take off, land and hover like a helicopter, and when the position of its rotors are tilted it has the long-range efficiency and speed of a turboprop aircraft.

Several of the aircraft are based at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk.

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Maj Keavy Rake, of USAF's 48th Fighter Wing, said: "The area was surveyed according to our policies and procedures and some damage did occur.

"We are taking steps to rectify as soon as possible.

"Our units are continuously coordinating with our local partners to improve operations.

"We are greatly appreciative of the relationship and coordination we have with the UK."