Our History

Inspired by the progress of Cornwall and London launching their own air ambulances, founder Kate Chivers was amongst the team, determined to make Kent the third county to launch a dedicated air ambulance service.

On 6th November 1989 the South East Thames Air Ambulance was born. On that day Sir Peter Baldwin KCB Chairman of the Regional Health Authority, signed an agreement with Mr Kenneth McAlpine, Chairman of McAlpine Helicopters to operate the specially equipped Twin Squirrel, G-SETA out of Rochester Airport.

The very first mission of the South East Thames Air Ambulance was December 23rd 1989, showed the life-saving potential of the service. Sixteen year old Michelle Leather, who lives near Tenterden, was flown to the William Harvey hospital, Ashford and was receiving treatment within seven minutes of being released by the helicopters paramedic team.

The initial agreement in 1989 was for McAlpine Helicopters Ltd to provide the helicopter and pilot free for six months while the health authority underwrote the costs.

In 1990 the Air Ambulance Appeal was launched and six months later a lottery that raised £200,000 a year, to help keep the life-saving crew flying.

At the time, Kent's Chief Ambulance Officer stated, "There is no doubt that lives have been saved. In its first week of service it answered eight calls. In two of those it was considered that the patient would probably have died had treatment not got there so quickly".


John Sheard

Vintage car enthusiast John Sheard had been to an auction preview at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and was on his way home.

As he rounded a bend on the A285...

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