SHOPPERS who visit Festival Place in Basingstoke are being given the chance to experience the thrill of flying a helicopter.

Visitors will be able to virtually soar through the skies thanks to Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance.

The charity has converted an old Citroen van into a unique mobile flight simulator and budding pilots can experience the thrill of flying a H135 helicopter.

Pilots can test their take-off and landing skills as well as get a bird’s eye view across Hampshire.

The van is visiting the centre to raise awareness of the vital work it does in getting injured people to hospital quickly and safely in often very difficult situations.

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Jill McDonagh, supporter engagement manager for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, said: “It takes years of training and countless flying hours to become a HEMS Pilot, but our flight simulator gives the public a chance to feel what it is like to fly our H135 helicopter on a mission.

“With realistic controls, instrument panels and even weather conditions, this is the closest most people will come to taking charge of Helimed56. We can’t wait for more people to get a chance to fly while learning about our vital lifesaving service.”

Anyone interested in jumping in the cockpit is urged to make a donation to the charity, without which the ambulance would be unable to fly.

The simulator van will be Festival Square until August 17 and is suitable for those aged 11 and over.

For further information visit