KATE Chivers, the inspiration behind Kent’s life-saving air ambulance, now has a helicopter named after her.
At a ceremony at Marden, home of the air ambulance, the hangar doors were opened to reveal The Kate Chivers, the service’s flagship Explorer 900 - registered G-KAAT - coming into land.
Mrs Chivers, who spearheaded the campaign for the Kent Air Ambulance and became its first chief executive 18 years ago, was visibly moved by the occasion. "It’s such a special day for me and I feel so honoured," she said.
Mrs Chivers retired in 2003 but her legacy is a vibrant air ambulance service with two helicopters now covering Sussex and Surrey as well as Kent. It has saved hundreds of lives and helped thousands more since its launch at Rochester in the early 1990s.
She battled bureaucracy and doubters to give Kent one of the best air ambulance services in the country. She also encouraged fundraisers to secure the future of a service needing £1.5 million a year in Kent alone.
But she modestly played down her role, preferring to praise the crews. "I was background, a facilitator, I wanted to make things happen."
Her successor David Philpott, who came up with the idea of naming a helicopter in her honour, said other air ambulance services had been modelled on what she had pioneered.
"She had always been a no-nonsense chief executive who wanted the best and that was what I wanted to carry on," he said. "Kate will go down in history as one of the founders of the air ambulance movement in the UK."
Sir Peter Baldwin, former chairman of the Kent Air AmbulanceTrust, said Mrs Chivers was a rock on which the service was built. "She did this because she thought it was right and gave it her total devotion," he said. "One of the glorious things is that the people of Kent have made this theirs."
Tony Monteuuis, present chairman of KAAT and former High Sheriff of Kent, added: "She is a woman of great vision, great energy, great enthusiasm and without her we wouldn’t be here today."
Simon Kelly knows what it’s like to be rescued by the air ambulance. He was seriously injured in a car accident on the A21 Pembury by-pass earlier this year. He paid tribute to the crew that day.
"Until you actually need them, you don’t realise what a great bunch they are, what a valuable service they provide, and I will always be indebted to them," he said.