Army helicopter flies patient from Scotland

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The Independent Online

A critically ill patient had to be flown from Scotland to London by military helicopter today after volcanic ash grounded most planes in the UK.

Only an RAF Sea King helicopter was suitable to make the journey after the volcano exploding in Iceland led to restrictions being imposed on UK airspace.

The female patient was taken by ambulance from hospital in Dunfermline, Fife, to HMS Gannet at Prestwick.

From there a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter flew her to London, landing in Regent's Park at around 9am.

An ambulance then took her to University College Hospital.

The incident was organised by the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) at RAF Kinloss which was asked to help at 3.13am.

An RAF spokesman said: "The ARCC would not usually task a helicopter from Scotland so far south but due to the air traffic control (ATC) restrictions caused by volcanic ash from an erupting volcano in Iceland there were no civilian aircraft or military fixed wings options available.

"If we had not taken this patient by helicopter then the only other option was a road ambulance."

The Scottish Ambulance Service said it took a female patient from Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline to Prestwick for transfer to London.

Flights were grinding to a halt today as ash from Iceland's volcanic eruption moved into UK airspace.

Airports faced massive disruption with flights in and out of all Scottish airports suspended, and those further south shutting or suspending flights during the day.

The ash cloud is damaging to aircraft due to its abrasive effect on jet engines.

The RAF said it would continue to provide full search and rescue cover but would restrict that to operational flights only, and would consider each request for assistance on a case by case basis.

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