Helicopter Heroes head down under

Helicopter above Sydney Opera House

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They're normally used to working from the hangar of Leeds Bradford Airport, but the Helicopter Heroes team shifted to Australia for a new series that airs in April.

The initial pitch was to make a one-off episode about a Yorkshire-based doctor who was moving down under to become a flying doctor.

However, that morphed into a 10-part series, which will be stripped across BBC Two over the next two weeks.

With audiences of around 1.3m, Helicopter Heroes has been a mainstay of the BBC's daytime schedules since 2007, initially hosted by Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond, who survived a car crash after treatment from the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

While a new series focusing on the YAA will be aired later this year, now hosted by Rav Wilding, the Australian spin-off was inspired by a rise in British doctors getting jobs down under.

Start Quote

They had to drink vast amounts of water and be aware of spiders and snakes”

End Quote Ian Cundall Editor, Helicopter Heroes

Since the UK is much smaller, there's arguably less need for a trauma doctor to actually leave their hospital and take their skills to an accident scene, according to Helicopter Heroes editor Ian Cundall.

"In Australia doctors routinely travel in ambulances and air ambulances and they're also travelling quite long distances, so it's not uncommon for an air ambulance to fly for nearly two hours to pick up a patient," he explains.

"British doctors see an opportunity for an experience they find hard to get at home."

He says an undersupply of flying doctors in Australia, partly due to the more anti-social aspects of the job, has also led to more British medics getting work down under.

Intense climate

The filming crew for Helicopter Heroes are trained to work in aircrafts, even though they don't have to fly them.

But they still had to do some intensive preparation for one of the hottest summers ever in Australia, when temperatures soared to around 45°C over the new year.

Cameraman in helicopter Filming crew receive training on working in helicopters

"They had to drink vast amounts of water and be aware of spiders and snakes that could harm them, so it was quite a steep learning curve," says Cundall.

Although Yorkshire is the biggest county in the UK, an average ambulance flight only takes around 20 minutes.

In Australia it can take about an hour. A researcher even had to drive for four hours to get broadcast consent from a patient.

Filming took place between November and February, with post-production split between Australia and an office at Leeds Bradford Airport.

Cundall says: "People came back into the teeth of the British winter and we were sitting in a hangar at -2°C editing shots of people on Bondi beach at 45°C."

Helicopter Heroes Down Under, Monday 1 April, BBC Two, 6.30pm

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