The two Airbus H145 D2 choppers, which only entered service in 2016, will be replaced by a five-bladed 'next generation' D3 model - and the charity will be the first operator in the UK to take delivery of the new design.
They will arrive by the summer of 2023 and G-YAAC and G-YOAA will be phased out of service.
YAA's aviation director Steve Waudby said: “Our two current helicopters have served us well since 2016 and will continue to do so for another few years. However, the typical effective lifespan of an air ambulance helicopter is somewhere between seven to 10 years, so we are placing a timely order now for delivery in 2023, whilst taking advantage of early Airbus production line slots, as this helicopter has become very popular within the air ambulance community.
"There have also been a lot of advancements made to the H145 since we bought our current aircraft - both technically in the cockpit, and medically with regards to the equipment we carry. We had the choice to look at retrospectively fitting these technological advancements or upgrading to brand-new helicopters that include everything as part of their specification. Given the complexities of helicopter mechanics, we would have also faced a longer lead time with having everything retrospectively fitted rather than buying new, so it was sensible for the charity to upgrade the helicopters for new ones.”
The first of the two new helicopters is expected to arrive in Yorkshire in spring 2023, with the second following shortly after.
Mr Waudby added: “If we had taken the decision to retrospectively fit all the extra technology and equipment we needed, by the time that had been completed we’d have been at a point where we would have been starting to look at replacing our current helicopters. Bringing our plans forward by a year or two means we get best value, as well as bringing two even better state-of-the-art helicopters to the people of Yorkshire.”
The new models have on-board Wifi so that patient information can be updated during the flight, and a new communications system that allows the crew to send data to hospitals ahead of arrival.
YAA chairman Peter Sunderland said: “We are delighted to be able to announce our plans for these new helicopters. The H145 has become the most popular new aircraft globally and we are very much looking forward to welcoming the two new models to Yorkshire. Our current H145 D2 helicopters have served us well, so there was no question about considering other makes or models - it is fast becoming the helicopter of choice within the air ambulance sector.
“We have been financially planning for these replacements since G-YAAC and G-YOAA commenced their operations in 2016 and with prudent, planned savings, careful budgeting, and building our reserves we are now in a position to move forward. This has only been made possible through the generosity of individuals, groups, businesses and organisations whose support is so gratefully received. Our aim has always been to provide the people of Yorkshire and its visitors with the best possible air ambulance service, and by upgrading our helicopters in 2023 we can continue to ensure we are futureproofing and modernising our operations and service delivery.”
The new helicopters, complete with full medical fit-out, will cost approximately £15.3million. Current aircraft G-YAAC and G-YOAA will be sold to offset some of these costs.