Choppers' busiest year

By Kristin Edge

1 comment
Alan Martin presented a donation of $5000 to the Northland rescue helicopter from the Loyal Orange Institution. Photo / John Stone
Alan Martin presented a donation of $5000 to the Northland rescue helicopter from the Loyal Orange Institution. Photo / John Stone

The Northland rescue helicopter teams are up in the air - and it is a good thing.

This year is looking to be the busiest on record for the rescue teams, who have responded to 466 requests for help to date, up from 404 for the same period last year.

During a week-long period earlier this month there were 32 flights, 10 of which were at night plus two missions that started in the day and ended at night.

If the demand for the service continues at the same rate, it is likely to eclipse last year's total flight number of 863.

Chief pilot and CEO Peter Turnbull said the increased demand meant the teams had had to become even more efficient and focused while also maintaining the highest standard of patient care.

"Our team of dedicated pilots and St John paramedics work around the clock to ensure the Northland community and those visiting it are in good hands if something goes wrong."

And with increased flights it also meant saving lives came at a cost. The latest donation to the service had been $5000 from the Loyal Orange Institution. Whangarei's Alan Martin, the treasurer for the institution, said the rescue helicopter service was vitally important. He said the service in Northland had the exceptional ability to fly long distances off shore to rescue boaties in trouble and those who were required to be airlifted off cruise ships. While Mr Martin had not used the Northland services, he had been transported in an Auckland rescue helicopter from Waiheke to hospital after it was suspected he was suffering a heart attack.

Much like last year, January was the busiest month so far in Northland, with the team responding to up to six call outs per day and completing six winch rescues.

April was also busy, with the helicopters responding to 85 call outs, compared with 76 in 2015. The flights included a mix of accident and emergency callouts and flying patients from small rural communities in Northland to Whangarei and Auckland Hospitals.

Interestingly 2016 has seen a rise in night missions compared with previous years, with the service attending 156 so far this year.

"Night rescues paired with the unpredictable weather at this time of year has meant we are using the full capability of the aircraft during a lot of our missions. Our night-vision goggles and GPS routes have been extremely useful and allowed us to get on with our rescues despite the conditions and time of day," Mr Turnbull said.

- Northern Advocate

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