Experienced helicopter pilot Rob Backus says he is delighted to have rejoined Wiltshire Air Ambulance.
Rob flew the MD902 Explorer for three years when the charity was sharing the helicopter with Wiltshire Police. When the joint helicopter contract came to an end in December 2014, Rob moved into Search and Rescue with Bristow Helicopters flying the Sikorsky 92 all round the UK.
Wiltshire Air Ambulance is now a stand-alone air ambulance and with the charity’s imminent move to its new airbase at Semington, near Melksham, Rob says he has joined at an exciting time in the charity’s development.
Rob, 44, said: “It’s great to be back. I leapt at the opportunity to rejoin Wiltshire Air Ambulance in our brand new purpose-built airbase, flying the latest generation helicopter and working alongside first class paramedics saving lives day and night.”
Rob was at the new airbase when the building was officially handed over to the charity last month and joined colleagues in watching Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s Bell 429 helicopter flying in and landing on the helipad for the first time.
He said: “Watching our helicopter fly in and land at the new airbase was a really special moment. The building looks absolutely fantastic and I think working there will make the charity more efficient, as the operational staff and the charity staff will both be there, and it will be a more welcoming facility for our supporters and patients to visit.”
Rob, who lives in Penselwood, Somerset, and is married with two daughters, has been a helicopter pilot for 19 years and has flown 3,400 hours.
He began flying at the age of 17 thanks to a Royal Navy flying scholarship, before joining the Royal Navy for 19 years. The final ten years of his military service were in the Fleet Air Arm flying the EH101 Merlin all round the world on operations. Rob was the first Royal Navy pilot to go through ab-initio training for the Merlin helicopter.
Rob knew all of the pilots and many of the paramedics at Wiltshire Air Ambulance before he re-joined in February as a full-time pilot. He had not flown a Bell 429 helicopter before, but has been impressed with its features.
“It’s more hi-tech and modern, particularly with electronic screens. It’s also a fast helicopter, it’s smooth and has sufficient space in the back for the patient and paramedics. It’s a very clearly laid out aircraft and I like the display in the cockpit,” he said.
Wiltshire Air Ambulance has to raise £3.25 million a year to keep flying and saving lives and Rob is full of admiration for everyone who fundraises for the charity, supported by the hard-working fundraising and administrative team.
He said: “Everyone who donates or fundraises for us makes a huge difference. Any donation, however small, helps to keep us flying and saving lives.”
A keen sports enthusiast, Rob is going to be fundraising for Wiltshire Air Ambulance by running the Bath Half Marathon in 2019, postponed from this year due to snowy conditions. He has also uploaded a photo for the heli mosaic which will be created at the new airbase.