Paramedics wearing futuristic jet packs could soon be responding to casualties in the Lake District following a successful test flight in the heart of the national park.
A trial showcasing the space age suits took place from Stool End Farm in the Langdale Valley this week following a year of discussions between the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) and Gravity Industries, the company behind the cutting-edge concept.
The test flight saw Gravity Industries founder and chief test pilot Richard Browning fly from the valley bottom to a simulated casualty site on The Band, near Bowfell.
The site would normally take around 25 minutes to reach on foot.
But the 1,050 brake horsepower jet suit was able to cover the distance in 90 seconds, opening a range of possibilities in the emergency response arena.
Andy Mawson, director of operations and paramedic at GNAAS, identified the Lakes as a possible location for a jet suit paramedic after hearing of Mr Browning’s work and then studying the charity’s own callout data.
“It showed dozens of patients every month within the complex but relatively small geographical footprint of the Lakes,” he said.
“We could see the need. What we didn’t know for sure is how this would work in practice.
“Well we’ve seen it now and it is, quite honestly, awesome.”
Mr Mawson said the exercise had demonstrated the huge potential of utilising jet suits to deliver critical care services.
He added: “In a time in healthcare when we are exhausted with COVID and its effects, it’s important to still push the boundaries.
“Our aircraft will remain a vital part of the emergency response in this terrain, as will the fantastic mountain rescue teams.
“But this is about looking at supplementing those resources with something completely new.
“We think this technology could enable our team to reach some patients much quicker than ever before. In many cases this would ease the patient’s suffering. In some cases, it would save their lives.”
Mr Browning added: “It was wonderful to be invited to explore the capabilities of the Gravity Jet Suit in an emergency response simulation and work alongside the team at GNAAS.
“We are just scratching the surface in terms of what is possible to achieve with our technology.
“Emergency response is one of the areas Gravity are actively pursuing, alongside launching a new commercial training location at the world-renowned Goodwood Estate.”
With the test complete, GNAAS and Gravity Industries are now exploring the next steps in this collaboration.