A jet suit which could fly a paramedic to an isolated casualty in minutes has been described as ‘awesome’ by an air ambulance service, which said it could save lives.
The system has been demonstrated in a test flight in the Lake District after a year of discussions between the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) and the firm which has developed the technology, Gravity Industries.
This test involved Gravity Industries founder and chief test pilot Richard Browning flying from the valley bottom in Langdale, Cumbria, to a simulated casualty site on The Band, near Bowfell.
GNAAS said the casualty site would have taken around 25 minutes to reach by foot but Mr Browning arrived in his 1050 brake horsepower jet suit in 90 seconds.
Andy Mawson, director of operations and paramedic at GNAAS, said the Lake District could be a possible location for a ‘Jet Suit paramedic’ following a study of the charity’s call-out data.
He said: ‘It showed dozens of patients every month within the complex but relatively small geographical footprint of the Lakes.
‘We could see the need. What we didn’t know for sure is how this would work in practice. Well, we’ve seen it now and it is, quite honestly, awesome.’
Mr Mawson said: ‘In a time in healthcare when we are exhausted with Covid and its effects, it’s important to still push the boundaries.
‘Our aircraft will remain a vital part of the emergency response in this terrain, as will the fantastic mountain rescue teams. But this is about looking at supplementing those resources with something completely new.
‘We think this technology could enable our team to reach some patients much quicker than ever before. In many cases this would ease the patient’s suffering. In some cases, it would save their lives.’
Mr Browning said: ‘It was wonderful to be invited to explore the capabilities of the Gravity Jet Suit in an emergency response simulation and work alongside the team at GNAAS.
‘We are just scratching the surface in terms of what is possible to achieve with our technology. Emergency response is one of the areas Gravity are actively pursuing, alongside launching a new commercial training location at the world-renowned Goodwood Estate.’
GNAAS and Gravity Industries said they wanted to thank Langdale Mountain Rescue Team, the National Trust, Stool End Farm and Cumbria Police for helping make the test possible.
GNAAS is a charity which provides air ambulance coverage across North-East England, Cumbria and North Yorkshire from bases at Langwathby, near Penrith, Eaglescliffe, near Stockton-on-Tees and Newcastle International Airport.
It responds to more than 1,500 callouts a year and relies on donations to fund its operations, which last year cost £5.3 million.