After a two-year quest, a new rescue and air ambulance helicopter has been purchased to cover the Waikato and King Country community.
The multi-role BK117 is a multi-million dollar investment for Philips Search & Rescue Trust, operator of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter based in Hamilton.
It will enter service in February.
Chief pilot, Grant Bremner says the capabilities that this BK117 adds to our rescue portfolio are immense. "Emergency services and residents in our region will greatly benefit from this investment.
"The BK117 is equipped with a Single Pilot IFR factory-fitted autopilot. In layman's terms this means only one pilot is required to fly the helicopter. The trust is the only rescue organisation that has been routinely flying this way for the last 20 years."
Previously based in Honiara, the helicopter was used to support Australian Defence Force personnel after political unrest.
After completion of the purchase in Honiara, the helicopter was flown under its own power to New Zealand - a journey of over 21 hours and 2,117 nautical miles.
Two more powerful engines are being fitted over Christmas, along with additional avionics that will enhance safety, and the helicopter will be painted in the Westpac Rescue Helicopter liveryThe aircraft is equipped with a 600lb rescue winch and is Night Vision Goggle capable.
Funds are required to cover the cost of the new chopper. Community support for upgrading the Bell 222B helicopter, which was built in 1986, to the more capable BK117 850D2 has been exceptional.
WEL Energy Trust granted $700,000 towards the project and grants from the Lion Foundation and Trust Waikato, along with support from FRIENDS of the Rescue Helicopter and the general public, have contributed in excess of $1m.
With an approximate $4 million price tag and $1.8m raised to date, the support of the community is as crucial as ever, says trust representatives.
The trust recently launched in conjunction with Greenlea Premier Meats, a fundraising initiative focusing on the rural community, which often relies on the rescue helicopter service due to their remote location. Further campaigns are in the pipeline.
For further information or to make a donation towards the capital appeal, please contact the FRIENDS office on 0800 11 10 10 or www.rescue.org.nz