Two new rescue helicopters will replace the Northland Rescue Helicopter's ageing fleet and meet growing demand.

The high-flying emergency teams up to last week had carried out 894 rescues and flown 67,578 minutes in 2019.

It was a big year in terms of rescues as well as adding two new choppers to its fleet in one of Northland's largest ever aviation projects.

CEO Paul Ahlers said the two new choppers were scheduled to be operational before Christmas once the final stages of pilot training are complete. They would replace the service's ageing fleet and meet growing demand.


"It's been a busy year for the team, not only because of the number of rescue missions, but also getting our two new helicopters ready for lift-off has resulted in by far the biggest project we have done since taking our maintenance in house in 2016.

"The team have worked tirelessly to get these helicopters ready to fly and they've done a brilliant job of ensuring the life-saving service Northland Rescue Helicopter provides is future proofed."

Since January, the service's rescue choppers had an average flight time of 75 minutes, meaning NRH pilots have flown about 67,578 minutes – or the same time it would take to fly to Japan and back 47 times.

The year started by airlifting a teenage girl from Bay of Islands to Whangārei Hospital after she was injured by a boat propeller.

Another of the many notable rescues was a man in his 50s who was flown to Whangārei Hospital from Mangawhai after the tractor he was driving rolled on him.

Pilot Rhys McLachlan, who came on board this year, moved his family to Whangārei for what he described as a "dream role for a helicopter pilot".

"You work with great machines, a really good team, and make a difference to people's lives. When you help another human, you are achieving in life, and we get to do that every day."

All Northland Rescue Helicopter pilots are undertaking extensive training in the two new Sikorsky choppers and McLachlan is enjoying testing the machines' capabilities.


"Helicopters are amazing machines. You can land anywhere in them. You can land in the weirdest of places and go anywhere in them – you can do it all in a helicopter."

In the past 30 years the Northland Rescue choppers have carried more than 20,000 lives to safety.