Hawke's Bay Rescue Helicopter Trust is hailing the first week of its new service as a success after a behind-the-scenes scramble for a loan chopper.

The trust ended its contract with Skyline Aviation, which provided the well-known black BK helicopter, on November 1.

It moved to newly incorporated company, Central Air Ambulance Rescue Limited (Caarl), which will oversee the contract for rescue helicopters for the whole Central region.

Caarl is jointly owned by the five existing air ambulance helicopter trusts in the North Island; The HBRHT, Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust, Philips Search & Rescue Trust, Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust and the Life Flight Trust.


General manager Ian Wilmot said it had been a "smooth transition" that had been handled "without any problems".

The rescue helicopter completed five emergency missions in its first week, including responding to a personal locator beacon activated in Ruahine Forest Park where a tramper was experiencing chest pains.

The trust has negotiated to lease an ex-German rescue helicopter that is being rebuilt and refurbished, with up-to-date safety and navigational enhancements, at a cost of $US$1 million. It will be painted yellow.

However, before the delivery of the twin engine BK-117D2 helicopter next month, the trust is loaning a white twin engine helicopter from Palmerston-North based Philips Trust.

The original temporary helicopter arranged to be used once the Skyline contract finished was only able to complete pre-hospital rescue missions and unable to undertake inter-hospital patients. It has been sent to Palmerston North instead.

Wilmot said it was a new era, but the same high standard of rescue service was being provided.

"In addition to these five emergency missions, the white helicopter on loan from Palmerston North has been involved in training and familiarisation around the local area for pilots and crewmen, especially with winch training for the team," Wilmot said.

He said its "highly qualified and experienced team of pilots and crew that have worked with the Hawke's Bay service will remain" and all other previous staff have been retained.

Each year, their crew performs more than 300 missions within the region, with more than 80 per cent of these providing urgent medical transport for the critically ill or injured.

The annual cost to run the service remains about $2.5 million, with half of that coming from the community.