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One to watch

A new series follows the lifesaving Cornwall Air Ambulance team as they respond to emergencies around the south west.

Whether you live in Cornwall, or regularly holiday in the county, it is very likely you will have spotted the Cornwall Air Ambulance flying overhead on a mission. The charity’s new red and yellow helicopter is unmistakable and often turns up in unexpected places, even on occasion in someone’s back garden. You might have seen it land on the beach, on moorland or at the roadside, but what you don’t see is what happens next. Each year the helicopter flies on over 750 missions across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The critical care paramedics on board the air ambulance are tasked to the most seriously sick and injured patients in the county. So, when the helicopter lands on scene, that is just the start of the story.

In order to give the public an insight into the lifesaving service their donations provide, Cornwall Air Ambulance opened its doors to a film crew for a special documentary series. The show Cornwall Air 999 follows the charity’s critical care paramedics and pilots as they attend emergencies over the busy summer months. The series for digital TV channel, Really, focuses on real-life rescue situations, the patients helped by the aircrew and the effect Covid-19 has had on the service.

“Lots of people see the helicopter out and about in the summer, but what they might not be aware of is that we are a charity,” says Air Operations Officer, Steve Garvey.

“Cornwall Air Ambulance relies on public donations to fly these missions and reach people in their moment of need. So, as a charity it is important to raise awareness about the types of incidents we attend, and how vital the service is here in Cornwall. But it is equally special for our supporters to be able to see first-hand the service they are funding and the difference they make to people’s lives.”

When the red phone rings at the charity’s airbase near Newquay, no one knows what or where the next emergency will be. Capturing film footage of real-life rescues, often in very challenging situations, was the task for Wadebridge-based Beagle Media. A camera operator followed the crew on daily shifts over the summer, travelling to scenes in the helicopter alongside the aircrew. Along with this, cameras were fitted into the helicopter and paramedics wore bodycams to capture different types of footage on scene.

For Steve, being in front of the camera is no new experience. In over 10 years with Cornwall Air Ambulance, he has previously featured on television shows about his work as part of the aircrew, which includes leading a team of 10 paramedics.

“It becomes second nature wearing the cameras and you do forget they are there; on scene our focus is solely on helping our patient,” says Steve. “I think viewers will enjoy seeing some of the environments we land in, the novel ways in which we sometimes have to reach a patient and how we work together as a team to provide the best possible care. We are also in the fortunate position of enjoying the views of Cornwall from the air every day, so it’s nice to be able to share that too.”

The series follows the aircrew from the moors of west Penwith, to the beaches of the north coast and even over the border into Devon, covering emergencies such as road traffic collisions, serious falls and agricultural incidents.

Paula Martin, Chief Executive of Cornwall Air Ambulance, says: “What our critical care team do is amazing; they are there for people in their absolute moment of need, providing lifesaving emergency care. This year they have had an even greater challenge than normal responding to incidents during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are delighted that viewers across the country will be able to see this first-hand, to understand the difference Cornwall Air Ambulance makes to families and how important it is to support the charity. It’s going to be a very exciting watch.”

Cornwall Air 999 airs on Discovery’s Freeview digital TV channel Really on Tuesdays at 9pm, or stream online at


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