Chopper drops in for big open day

By Zaryd Wilson

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HOP IN: Cruz Treweek, 7, is show around the Palmerston North Rescue helicopter by pilot Chris Moody at yesterday's open day.
HOP IN: Cruz Treweek, 7, is show around the Palmerston North Rescue helicopter by pilot Chris Moody at yesterday's open day.

It flies Whanganui skies day after day but yesterday people had the chance to get a close-up look at the rescue chopper.

It was the first open day for the Philips Search and Rescue Trust Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter in five years. It will now be an annual event alternating between Whanganui and Palmerston North.

Other emergency services including police, the Coastguard and the fire service were also on deck at the open day. People were allowed a look inside the rescue helicopter with staff on hand to answer questions about the operation.

"All of these rescue services that are here today are connected, and we all do effectively the same job, just different aspects," pilot Chris Moody said.

While the rescue helicopter was based in Palmerston North, Mr Moody said Whanganui was a big part of the area it covered. About 30 per cent of its rescue jobs come to Whanganui Hospital and its patch included Whanganui and Rangitikei up to National Park.

Mr Moody said the open day was about allowing the community to learn how the helicopter and the organisation worked.

"The people here own this helicopter."

Philips Search and Rescue Trust communications manager Vanessa Richmond said the day was about meeting the community they serve.

"Even though this helicopter is based at Palmerston North Hospital, it actually services the wider Manawatu-Whanganui region," she said.

The rescue helicopter relied on donations for more than 50 per cent of the operating costs, needing to raise $1.7 million each year. "That's just to keep the helicopter 24/7, 365 days rescue-ready," Ms Richmond said.

Money came from sponsorship by local businesses, the Friends of the Rescue Helicopter programme and events such as the open day. "Every dollar counts," she added.

"We operate on a no-fault basis. We certainly always go if we are called, the whole 'who pays for it' comes later."

The Palmerston North rescue helicopter attended 270 callouts last year.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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