THE Wiltshire Air Ambulance landed for the first time yesterday on the helipad at the charity’s new airbase.

The milestone was followed by the official handover of the airbase at Semington, near Melksham to Wiltshire Air Ambulance by building contractor Rigg Construction (Southern) Ltd.

The £5.1 million base at Outmarsh Farm, partly paid for by a public appeal supported by the Adver, will now be fitted out before the charity’s fundraising, administrative and operational teams move in by this summer.

WAA’s chief executive David Philpott said: “Today has been a significant day in the history of Wiltshire Air Ambulance with the handover of our new airbase.

“We are now in the final phase of the building work as we undertake the fitting and equipping of it before it becomes operational.

He added: “Our primary contractor Rigg Construction and our architects and project managers, CMS, have ensured that our new home has the best possible facilities for our helicopter, our pilots, paramedics and our charity team to enable us to continue to save lives in the future.”

The charity is expecting to start moving its team of 30 staff into the new airbase by the second week of May. It should be fully operational by June.

The first landing on the helipad was performed by WAA helicopter pilot, Nicky Smith, 49, who was on duty flying the aircraft on Tuesday. She was accompanied by two of the charity’s 11-strong team of paramedics.

Nicky said: “It was a real privilege and an honour to pilot the first landing on the helipad. It was a nice one for the logbook.”

After receiving a symbolic key to the airbase from Rigg Construction’s commercial director Jon Price WAA chairman Chris Lear said: “It has been a great job. I am pleased with the way everything has gone and would like to thank the people of Wiltshire, whose generous donations have enabled us to build this new airbase.”

The airbase at Outmarsh Farm, Semington, brings the charity’s helicopter, aircrew and charity team together onto one site, and .

WAA said: “This is a really exciting time for Wiltshire Air Ambulance as we complete our custom-built new airbase.

“This is a perfect location in the centre of Wiltshire and The airbase will allow the helicopter to reach all parts of the county within 11 minutes, as it currently does now.

WAA received full planning permission for the new airbase in January 2017 and work commenced in April last year.

The new building comprises rooms for its fundraising, administrative and operational teams, plus reception, breakout areas, training rooms, a kitchen, toilets and a hangar, as well as the new helipad.

Mr Philpott said the WAA has raised more money than it needs for the construction but still requires £100,000 for the fitting out and equipment. He now needs to talk to the trustees of major donors to see if funds can be transferred.

The airbase is likely to cost around £3.2 million a year to run, although the charity is hoping it will be more cost-effective than its existing base in Devizes.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance was established in March 1990 as a joint venture between the Wiltshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust and the Wiltshire Constabulary.