Much bigger rescue bird

SOON FLYING OUR WAY: The new AW139 rescue helicopter.

SOON FLYING OUR WAY: The new AW139 rescue helicopter.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter is going through some changes as the state’s aeromedical service is restructured, but its patrons (both supporters and patients) are unlikely to notice any difference, according to Lismore-based Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service’s general manager Kris Beavis.

He said helicopter buffs may look up during one of the service’s regular visits to our skies and notice a much larger vehicle, and this will be the due to arrival of the new Augusta Westlands (AW)139 units. They weigh 6.5 tonne each as opposed to the current 4.5 tonne helicopters, and feature two 1142 kilowatt engines versus the old 625kw ones, but they’re more fuel-efficient.

Mr Beavis said the state government recruited Ernst and Young to undertake an aeromedical review several years ago, examining the existing arrangement of five different operators using a variety of aircraft. As a result of the review there will now be only two operators covering the state, with the current Lismore, Tamworth and Newcastle operators now all under one umbrella with another operator serving the south of the state.

The AW139 will be used state-wide, providing a huge advantage for those working in the units, Mr Beavis said. These helicopters are usually luxury transports but instead identical ‘pods’ specially designed to meet the exacting needs of the rescue service will be fixed into each aircraft so all equipment and supplies will be in exactly the same position. This is an important feature as ‘muscle memory’ plays an critical role as medical staff focus on saving lives and don’t have to think about where to reach for a certain item.

The bigger work platform allows more room for the doctor and paramedic, and a special crane allows a patient to be loaded in 43 seconds.

“From a work health and safety perspective it’s fantastic,” Mr Beavis said. “It protects staff from hurting their back, for instance, and heaven forbid that’s the pilot.”

Mr Beavis said traditionally the aim of the service was to get patients packaged up and delivered to the next level of care. Now it’s more a case of treating the patient to make the most of the ‘golden time’ when first reaching them, with the units equipped with ultrasound, portable x-ray machine, a ‘life pack’ as seen over beds in emergency departments, and a blood box.

Mr Beavis said the flying staff are also very excited about their new ‘toy’ with its state-of-the-art technology, and are currently undergoing training to be licensed for the new aircraft.

There will be four AW139s shared between the three northern bases, and due to a zoned maintenance schedule there are improved turnaround times for off-line servicing.

ROOM TO MOVE: Getting contruction of the new helipad base underway are Warren Tozer OAM (Chairman Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter), Kris Beavis (General Manager Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter), Jenny Dowell (Mayor Lismore City Council), Ken Jolley OAM (Volunteer Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter),  Thomas George MP (Member for Lismore), Richard Jones (General Manager Westpac Rescue Helicopter), Roy Gordon(Local Elder Bundjalung)

ROOM TO MOVE: Getting contruction of the new helipad base underway are Warren Tozer OAM (Chairman Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter), Kris Beavis (General Manager Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter), Jenny Dowell (Mayor Lismore City Council), Ken Jolley OAM (Volunteer Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter), Thomas George MP (Member for Lismore), Richard Jones (General Manager Westpac Rescue Helicopter), Roy Gordon(Local Elder Bundjalung)

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