NI's new air ambulance called out once a day on average
Northern Ireland's new air ambulance service has been called out about once a day, on average, since its official launch almost six weeks ago.
The helicopter has responded to a total of 48 emergency calls since it became fully operational on 2 August.
Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (AANI) chief executive Patrick Minne said it was making a life-saving difference.
"There are people alive today that might not otherwise be," he told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme.
"We do know anecdotally from speaking to colleagues within the intensive care units, that we have definitely made a difference."
Busier than expected
The EC135 aircraft is based at Maze Long Kesh near Lisburn, County Antrim, and can reach any part of Northern Ireland within 25 minutes.
A backup helicopter is stationed at St Angelo Airport in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.
The service costs £2m a year to run and is dependent on public donations.
Its chief executive said the first few weeks of its operation had been busier than expected.
"We had anticipated getting up to that once-daily tasking rate within the first three to six months," said Mr Minne.
"To get there within the first six weeks has been a real effort.
"It's really a credit to the integration with the rest of the road ambulance service and the ambulance control, as well as the other emergency services, that it's happened and bedded in more quickly than we had anticipated."
More than three quarters of the call-outs to date have been to road crashes.
The aircraft has been busiest in County Down, which has been responsible for 40% of its total deployments.
Air ambulance deployments by county
- County Down - 19
- County Antrim - 11
- County Tyrone - 6
- County Armagh - 5
- County Londonderry - 5
- County Fermanagh 2
"Although it seems to be disproportionate for County Down, and less so for Antrim, actually, it is broadly proportionate to the population," said Mr Minne.
He added that the figures were influenced by "the fact that the Royal Victoria Hospital is the best major trauma centre for a lot of these, and that's where we want to get them to".
The deployment figures were released as part of Air Ambulance Week, a UK-wide campaign to raise awareness of the work of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS).
The chief executive said the service had received "remarkable support" from the public and he was "confident" it would achieve its fundraising target.