Mike McLintock, St John ICP Suzanne Galloway and pilot Kent Wilson were the crew on the H145 air ambulance’s first mission last week

Air ambulance’s first mission

by Ann van Engelen

The latest addition to the Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust fleet had its first mission on Friday.

The H145 helicopter is one of two new air ambulances for the southern region. The other is based in Dunedin, and the choppers are fast becoming a world-class aeromedical service for New Zealand.

“It was very exciting to watch the crew head off on the first rescue mission with the new H145, the first emergency rescue helicopter of this type in New Zealand,” said CEO Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust, Christine Prince.

“The helicopter was dispatched at 14.00 to Porter Heights to a 16-year-old male with a shoulder injury from a skiing accident and he was flown to Christchurch public hospital.

“Our crew have undergone extra training, and all of these skills come into play when attending missions, especially at this time of year when inclement weather is often a factor. The H145 has a larger cabin area for greater manoeuvrability and better patient care, and the avionics are cutting edge and have enhanced safety features.

“Other missions over the weekend included two in Methven and others in Waipara, Mt Cook, 40 nautical miles off Amberley and to Ashburton and Timaru hospitals. The Selwyn district represents approximately 12 per cent of our missions in the region — 32 out of 271 in the first half of the year.”

The H15s are the first of their kind in New Zealand and have enabled all rescue helicopter bases in the south to continue operating. The twin-engine helicopter will join the current BK117 in servicing the Canterbury region.

The aircraft’s capabilities allowed it to hover automatically at the push of a button while its terrain awareness system means if it is over water, it will come down to 150ft and won’t go any further until a command is put in.

“There are two rescue helicopters based in Christchurch so the crew can respond in a timely way when multiple calls come through,” said Christine.

“It is amazing to have this level of service, in rural areas like the Selwyn district — it really does make a difference. It can be the only way to get to a patient, to start treatment and get them to the hospital. During the day the Westpac Rescue Helicopter is despatched within 10 minutes and at night within 20 minutes.”

“We are very grateful to have sponsors and supporters. Without them, this service would just not be able to operate at this level and provide the ‘safety net’ it does, across the region.

“Many of our supporters have put up their hands and simply been there to help over the years.

“We have this new helicopter, and we need the assistance of everyone to keep it in the air so we can be there day and night when needed. If you can assist in any way, please contact us airrescue.co.nz.”