Kirsty Wynn is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Air safety training threatened

Realistic training is essential.
Realistic training is essential.

Life-saving training for flight nurses is under threat unless a sponsor can be found for mandatory helicopter training.

Nurses who fly with rescue helicopters in New Zealand are required to be trained in getting out of the machine underwater to be prepared if a craft ditches.

Diane Fuller, of the Flight Nurses Association, said funding was needed for the five-day national education course for flight nurses and aero-medical paramedics.

The not-for-profit organisation - a section of the Nurses Organisation - has started looking for a corporate sponsor so it can keep training.

The course provides crucial preparation for the specialised medical professionals and the training is mandatory. But the course is expensive and $10,000 extra funding is needed each year to train 24 nurses and paramedics.

"We used to do a lot of the training in classrooms but getting in the pool in a helicopter frame is the only way to do it properly," Fuller said.

The training is essential as nurses can only save the lives of patients if they first save themselves.

"Being under the water in full gear and having to get out safely and then help get patients out is something that can only be done in the pool. Being submerged is incredibly disorienting."

Four trained divers ensure all trainees get out of the submerged cockpit and can escape despite starting the exercises wearing seatbelts and having the doors locked.

- Herald on Sunday

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