THE East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) is set to become the most advanced service of its kind in the country after awarding a contract to aviation company Bond Air Services for two new aircraft.

THE East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) is set to become the most advanced service of its kind in the country after awarding a contract to aviation company Bond Air Services for two new aircraft.

Both aircraft will be capable of night flying, bringing the prospect that the life-saving service could be extended.

The EAAA, launched in 2000, has been operating interim helicopters provided by Bond since its previous operator, Sterling Aviation, had its fleet grounded by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Tim Page, the charity's chief executive, said: "The arrival of our new aircraft marks a big step forward in emergency care in East Anglia and will give people in our region the benefit of an air ambulance fleet which is unmatched in the UK.

"As with our current aircraft, they will be fully medically equipped and each will carry aboard NHS doctors highly trained in emergency medicine, and critical care paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust."

He highlighted the important role played by the air ambulances, based in Norwich and Cambridge, in being able to reach the sites of accidents and medical emergencies anywhere in the region in about 20 minutes.

And with the NHS increasingly reliant on a smaller number of specialist hospitals, they are also often being given the task of taking patients not just to the closest hospital, but to the hospital best suited to treat their condition.

He said: "We're continually looking to enhance our service and the capability of our new aircraft to fly at night represents a major opportunity to help people in our region in their hour of need."

Under the terms of the new agreement with Bond, the charity's Cambridge airport base will take delivery of an EC135 P2 aircraft in December. This is a similar model to that being used by the EAAA at Norwich airport.

Next July, the charity - which relies on £3million of public donations annually to keep operational - will receive an EC135 T2e to upgrade the aircraft at Norwich. This aircraft will be able to be used for missions after dark.

Finally, in December 2013, the charity's Cambridge airport base will take delivery of an EC 145 T2, a more spacious aircraft .

Hayden Newton, chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: "The EAAA provides a vital service working alongside the Ambulance Service in often difficult and challenging circumstances. We welcome the arrival of the new aircraft which will increase its capabilities still further."