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Last Updated: Monday, 10 March 2008, 13:01 GMT
Stars back air ambulance appeal
New helicopter
The new helicopters are bigger which is better for paramedics
An appeal to raise money for a new fleet of three air ambulances across Wales has been launched.

Wales Air Ambulance say the three new helicopters have to be leased by 2009 to comply with civil aviation rules.

They will cost an extra 1m a year to run - taking running costs to 5m - which has led to the "Appealing for a " campaign by the charity.

Royle Family star Ricky Tomlinson and opera singer Bryn Terfel have backed the appeal.

Tomlinson, who has lived in Wrexham, has pledged his support to the campaign, which is looking for pledges of 1 from across Wales.

He said: "I have lived in Wales, and all my children are Welsh, so this charity is very close to my heart - they do a fantastic job in helping people when they need them most."

The helicopters are based at Caernarfon, Swansea and Welshpool.

A replacement fleet would cost 1m per year more to run.

Ricky Tomlinson and Bryn Terfel
Star support - Ricky Tomlinson and Bryn Terfel

At the moment the charity has to find 4m every year to lease the air ambulances from a specialist aviation company.

The appeal will be launched at towns and cities across Wales this week.

Currently the charity is not funded by the government or lottery money and the average mission costs 1,000.

Opera star Bryn Terfel said the work of the Wales Air Ambulance was crucial and public support has always been "exceptional".

Moving map

He added: "I urge everyone to give what they can so the excellent work that the pilots and paramedics carry out can continue."

Bob Palmer, chairman of Wales Air Ambulance, said they have no option but to upgrade the helicopters.

The new fleet will be equipped with a GPS or moving map system, which will help pilots find their way in remote areas of Wales.

The new fleet would enable pilots to fly in a limited way at night and may be called upon to fly urgent hospital transfers.

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