THE AIR Ambulance service is upgrading its helicopter to a faster, more powerful model.

The EC135 Eurocopter will enter service in July. It will be painted a fiery red, and will have the advantage of carrying more passengers, allowing injured children to be flown to hospital with their parents there to offer support.

The new helicopter would cost more than £3 million to buy. However the service will be leasing it for an annual cost of £1.2 million. This will cover fuel, pilots, administration and maintenance costs.

Rachael Hunter from the Berks, Oxon and Bucks Air Ambulance said: "It's going to be able to go a lot faster. It's just all together a bigger, faster machine."

She said that the extra passenger capacity would be vital for reassuring child patients: "If mum and dad are there they instantly feel calmer and safer."

The current model cannot fly at night time, and patients can only be loaded in from the rear.

The new one will allow paramedics to load passengers from the side or from the rear.

On top of this it can carry more fuel, meaning it can fly for longer and further, and the extra power allows it to access tricky areas.

The helicopter is also more fuel efficient, and maintenance costs are lower.

Interestingly, the old helicopter used to be owned by Jackie Onassis, former wife of United States President John F Kennedy, and later millionaire shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. She used to use it for shopping trips.

The Berks, Oxon and Bucks Air Ambulance is a charity and depends entirely on public donations for support.

Lyn Paver from the charity said: "If you don't support us we can't keep going.

"Even if it saves just one life a year this ambulance is worth it.

"This helicopter belongs to the people of the three counties and we need the public's help.

"We don't get any Government funding, and we don't qualify for Lottery support."

Anyone who wants to make a donation can do so by calling 0300 999 0135.