AN AMBULANCE helicopter has been grounded until further notice, after the company operating it went bust.

The Wiltshire Air Ambulance helicopter had already been stopped from flying, after a fault was spotted on Wednesday.

But the collapse on Thursday of Kent firm Heli Charter, which operates the Semington charity’s Bell 429 helicopter, means Wiltshire Air Ambulance will be unable to use the aircraft for the foreseeable future.

Bosses at air ambulance operator Heli Charter blamed growing investment requirements as they placed the firm into voluntary liquidation.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s five pilots are already employed directly by the charity and have not been affected by Heli Charter.

A spokesman for the air ambulance said the charity was applying for its own Air Operator Certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority, covering the organisation to run the helicopter directly.

A charity spokesman said: “As is always the case, we continue to respond to medical emergencies from our two rapid response vehicles, which carry the same specialist medical equipment that is on-board the helicopter.”

“The charity has its own contingency plan, which has already begun. For some time we have been looking to secure our own AOC and those preparations are well advanced and its issuance imminent.”

The Civil Aviation Authority, which issues AOCs, could not say how long it might take for the certificate to be issued.

Helicopters from local air ambulance charities, including Great Western and Thames Valley, would be available if a patient needed to be airlifted, the spokesman added.