Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Thursday, 15 April 2010 12:35 UK

Navy flies critically ill patient to London

RN helipter from HMS Gannet
The RAF coordinated the flight which was made by a Navy helicopter

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

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

Only a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter was suitable to make the journey after the volcano erupting in Iceland led to restrictions on UK airspace.

The RAF said it would consider each request for assistance case by case.

The Royal Navy Sea King helicopter flew the woman to London, landing in Regent's Park at around 0900BST.

An ambulance then took her to University College Hospital.

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

The transfer was organised by the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC) at RAF Kinloss which was asked to help at 0313BST.

An RAF spokesman said: "The ARCC would not usually task a helicopter from Scotland so far south but due to the air traffic control 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 across the country have ground to a halt as ash from Iceland's volcanic eruption moved into UK airspace.

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.

'Low altitude'

The Scottish Air Ambulance Service has had to ground its fixed wing air ambulances because of the volcanic cloud affecting the UK.

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said patients in Scotland's remote islands expecting to be transferred to the mainland may be affected.

However air ambulance helicopters are still operating and will continue to respond to emergencies as long as the weather remains clear.

The helicopters fly at a low altitude and can navigate visually.

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