Tauranga's Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter service has a new helicopter - and it's already had its first missions.

The twin-engine BK117 was delivered this week, the Philips Search and Rescue Trust said in a media release.

The new model - on lease while the trust looks for and fits out a new permanent machine - will replace the single-engine Squirrel that has served the region for the last 18 years.

Over the next couple of weeks, the Tauranga-based crew will be in a transition period with both machines being available for emergency and air ambulance work.


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The BK117 was sent on its first mission yesterday about 10am to the remote East Cape settlement of Te Araroa.

Its first patient was a 55-year-old local woman with heart issues. She was airlifted to Whakatane Hospital in challenging weather conditions.

Upon return to the Tauranga base, the crew was sent to Paeroa to airlift a seriously ill man to Waikato Hospital.

Both missions were carried out by pilots Liam Brettkelly and Barry Vincent and crewman Callan Carn-Bennett.

Brettkelly, manager of the Tauranga base, said the BK117 would increase the capabilities of the emergency service.

"The new machine will be fully equipped with the latest technology and equipment for rescue missions and medical emergencies.

"The BK117 is a more capable, modern and spacious aircraft to better service Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty."

The model was the most popular rescue helicopter in New Zealand and also around the world, the trust said, lauding its multi-role capability, high performance, agility and roominess.

The increase in annual operating costs for the base was outweighed by the benefits of a more modern machine as well as better safety gear including crash-resistant fuel tanks, seats and structures.

How much the new helicopter would increase costs was yet to be fully discovered.

The upgrade followed the lead of other Philips Search and Rescue Helicopter bases in the Waikato-King Country and Manawatu-Whanganui.

The Tauranga-based Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter Service carried out 203 missions last year.

Tauranga's new BK117

- Can be airborne in 10 minutes
- More room in the rear for crew to aid patients while airborne
- Faster, allowing the crew to get to patients earlier
- More safety features, including crash-resistant fuel tanks, seats and structures
- More expensive to run