THE Great North Air Ambulance Service provides an emergency service all year round - even when Cumbria is suffering from storms.

In the wake of storms Isha and Jocelyn, the chief helicopter pilot with GNAAS has shared his advice.

Kendal-born Phil Lambert joined GNAAS after an impressive 22 years in the army.

Now he pilots for a charity responsible for covering an area of 5,500 square miles and over eight million people.

GNAAS operate its emergency helicopters and HEMS response vehicles 365 days a year, bringing highly skilled specialist pre-hospital care and transfers to patients across the entire North West.

Phil flies a Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin. With a top speed of 170 miles per hour he can get crew to the scene of an emergency in just a few minutes.

Inside the solo-pilot aircraft, Phil is joined by a specialist doctor as well as a paramedic who is trained to act as a technical crew member and assist with radio.

Phil said the hardest part of his job is judging the weather conditions and knowing when it’s not safe to fly. There are times when it is very dangerous but he has a lot of training and experience to help him fly safely.

The biggest factor in deciding if conditions are safe to fly, is wind speed, Phil explained that gusts over 40MPH are really challenging and can be dangerous.

He said: “You might come to the base, see the aircraft and think it’s big, but once you get out into the sky the mountains make it feel small. In turbulent conditions the aircraft can get buffeted around quite a lot.”

Visibility is another problem Phil faces during adverse weather, flight regulations authorise him to hover around 300ft with a visibility limit of 3km, but fog and low hanging cloud can make this impossible.

This is where his knowledge of the landscape and 24 years of piloting experience allow him to fly safely despite the very changeable conditions of the fells. 

When there’s storms and bad weather, Phil said the key to staying safe is to know what you’re getting yourself into. He said: “Make sure you have the equipment and the experience to deal with the conditions. Manage the risk and make sure you are prepared.”