A DISTINGUISHED group of parliamentarians and would-be parliamentarians dropped into Thruxton Circuit to visit the home of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance.

The charity-funded air ambulance has flown on more than 2,000 mercy missions since it first took to the county’s skies on July 1, 2007.

The current 30-year-old aircraft flies between 8am and 4pm in the winter and until 6pm in the summer but there are concrete plans for a more modern replacement later this year.

The visiting MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates, who included Sir George Young and Sandra Gidley, were drawn from the three main political parties.

They had earlier been briefed on the latest plans for the service in Winchester and arrived in Thruxton just after the aircraft had returned from a call to the New Forest.

Sir George Young, whose North West Hampshire constituency houses the helicopter’s home, said: “The current helicopter costs more than £90,000 per month to keep the show on the road.

“About £66,000 of that is funded by the air ambulance lottery with over £30,000 the result of a ‘bag’ scheme.

“But the new helicopter, which will fly longer hours and scramble more quickly, is going to cost £123,000 a month to run.”

Despite its age the current aircraft manages to reach all parts of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight within 25 minutes even though it is based on the county’s north western rim.

Both main pilots are Army Air Corps trained at Middle Wallop and they know the local topography particularly well.