WILTSHIRE’S lifesaving air ambulance has been grounded for the past week.

It follows a scare at the charity’s new base in Semington, near Melksham, last Friday. Their Bell 429 helicopter is understood to have spun out of control before coming back to rest on its skids on the helipad.

One person was sitting in the helicopter at the time of the incident, with another close by the helicopter. Both were shaken by the incident, a source told the Swindon Advertiser.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance blamed a technical fault and said engineers were hoping to get the helicopter back in the skies early next week.

The Civil Aviation Authority, the regulator for aircraft in the UK, has been notified about the incident. However, a spokesman for the CAA said he was unable to confirm or deny whether or not an investigation was being carried out. The Air Accidents Investigation Board confirmed it had been informed of the incident but they were taking no further action.

Following the incident, cover for the county has been provided by Great Western Air Ambulance and other local charities. Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s doctors and critical care paramedics have been using their rapid response cars to support South Western Ambulance Service.

A spokeswoman for Wiltshire Air Ambulance said: “There was an incident last Friday evening with the helicopter. It occurred during engine ground run. This is part of the daily engine power assurance checks, nobody was hurt and there was no damage to the helicopter, building or equipment. 

“We are currently awaiting the arrival of a spare component to release the aircraft to service. Following engineering testing we expect the helicopter to be online again next week.”

Asked what safety measures were in place to ensure staff safety, Wiltshire Air Ambulance said:“We always work under strict safety procedures when operating in and around the helicopter to ensure the safety of all our staff

“The CAA was informed as this is normal procedure and are supporting us where required. No further action is expected.”

Wiltshire Air Ambulance moved to its new home at Semington, near Melksham, on May 10. The £4.25 million air base was part funded by an £800,000 charity appeal, backed by the Swindon Advertiser. 

Following the new base’s unveiling, David Philpott, chief executive, said: “Our new airbase at Outmarsh, near Semington, is something that we are very proud of and everyone who has raised funds for it should be equally as proud. The purpose-built facility will secure our future and enable us to continue saving lives for years to come.” 

The emergency air ambulance service costs £3.25m a year to run. Unlike other air ambulances, such as the Bristol-based Great Western, the Wiltshire Air Ambulance flies and manages its own helicopter. Others use firms like Babcock to maintain and fly their aircraft. Wiltshire is the first air ambulance charity to fly the Bell 429.