15 Minutes… Devon Air Ambulance Pilot, Captain Ross White

Jun 3, 2024 | Featured Articles, Interviews



15 Minutes… Devon Air Ambulance Pilot, Captain Ross White

Jun 3, 2024 | Featured Articles, Interviews

Within 3-4 minutes the Devon Air Ambulance helicopter crew have been alerted to an emergency. 15-20 minutes later, they’re arriving on the scene. 

When the emergency red phone rings (“yes it is red”, Ross confirms), at the Exeter Airbase – every second counts.

Devon Air Ambulance Line Pilot, Captain Ross White, is one of the pilots responding to the call, transporting equipment and the specialist skills of critical care doctors and paramedics to those urgently in need.

With two rugged coastlines, compact villages and towns, and acres of rural wilderness, Devon presents a unique challenge for such a response. 

 “As a pilot, the most important information is where we need to be. This comes in the form of a six figure grid reference”, Ross explains. “In the front of the helicopter, one of the paramedics helps with the navigation and if the weather allows, we will go in a straight line and other aircraft will get out of our way. If the weather is not so good, we might have to dodge around hills to get there safely and as quickly as possible.”

A daily briefing discusses additional hazards to consider, including newly positioned cranes, hospital availability and local events taking place on what could be used as a landing site.

Beyond that, thorough daily checks and maintenance are imperative to ensure the helicopter is ready to go at all times, which even involves pumping fresh water through the two engines every day. 

At the Exeter airbase, a second crew are responsible for the ‘night shift’ until 2am, which involves additional checks to night vision goggles.

Once landed, the medics are straight out onto the scene of the incident. It’s during this time that the pilot starts planning which hospitals are likely to be needed based on the nature of the incident, while preparing the helicopter in relation to additional weight, timings and weather.

“Ultimately, the main objective is getting the patient to the most suitable hospital quickly and safely, while delivering first-class medical care in the interim”, says Ross.

Last year, 1333 missions were tasked to the Devon Air Ambulance helicopter, reaffirming the importance of this life-saving service.

“Our operation is entirely funded by the kind people of Devon and beyond”, Ross added. “You never know if or when you might need our help. Having two helicopters at immediate readiness for 19 hours a day, every day of the year is not cheap, and we rely on the kindness of the Devon people to donate what they can to help us to help you.”

Learn more about the important daily work of the Devon Air Ambulance at www.daat.org 

Images © Devon Air Ambulance Trust

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