The Countess of Wessex stepped out for her first public engagement on Thursday after the royal family's summer break. Sophie visited her patronage Thames Valley Air Ambulance (TVAA) at White Waltham Airfield, Maidenhead, to help launch their 21st anniversary celebrations. The Countess' visit came ahead of National Air Ambulance Week from 7 to 13 September.
WATCH: The Countess of Wessex visits Thames Valley Air Ambulance
Dressed in a smart-casual ensemble of a blazer, a printed blouse and jeans, Sophie was given a tour of the TVAA helicopter and was shown some of the advanced medical equipment on-board the aircraft.
"I've been in here so often I could fly it myself," she joked, as pilot Dave Webber pointed out the finer points of the cockpit. "Now watch me fall out."
The Countess heard from former patients during the outdoor visit
The Countess also met the Air Ambulance crew and spent time talking with former patients, who shared their life-changing experiences of the care they received.
Charlotte Ballard, 27, from Hampshire, was seriously injured in a car crash in 2013 after skidding off the A34 in Chieveley, Berkshire and dropping down a 30ft embankment. She was inspired to train as a paramedic after returning in 2015 to meet the crew who treated her. "I was saving up for a cake shop before then," she told the Countess. Charlotte qualified in July this year and hopes to work on air ambulances after five years’ experience elsewhere.
The Countess became patron of TVAA in 2019
It was a poignant visit for the Countess as she was airlifted to hospital from her Surrey home in Bagshot Park, by TVAA in 2001, when she suffered a potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.
Sophie became patron of the charity in January 2019 and TVAA said in a statement at the time: "Having personally benefited from its expert crew in 2001, the Countess knows only too well how every day, anyone in the community could be in urgent need of the organisation’s vital emergency service."
Sophie went on to have two children, Lady Louise Windsor, now 16, and James, Viscount Severn, now 12, in 2003 and 2007 respectively.
Sophie met Air Ambulance crew
In April, the Countess held a video call with TVAA's crew to hear how the charity's paramedics and doctors were responding to the coronavirus pandemic during lockdown. Speaking from her kitchen at Bagshot Park, Sophie thanked crew members who had been redeployed to help their NHS colleagues working on the frontline.
Her outing on Thursday comes shortly after the Wessexes spent time with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at their Scottish estate Balmoral in August. Lady Louise also received her GCSE results last month and is expected to begin her A-levels in the coming weeks.
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