Last year was the busiest ever for Northland's rescue helicopters in NEST's 33-year history, but that record might not last long.
In the first five months of this year the choppers undertook 584 missions, 149 more than over the same period last year.
CEO Craig Gibbons said demand on rescue chopper trusts around the country was greater than ever, Northland being particularly busy because of the large area it covered and the region's "vast" coastline.
"The missions and callouts the team have been tasked with range from long-distance sea winch rescues through to hospital transfers," he said.
"With 2021 shaping up to be busier than ever, it really does highlight the need to have a dedicated Northland rescue chopper service that is committed to providing the highest standard of rapid response critical care possible."
There was no one clear factor behind the increased demand, but, similar to last year, international border closures meant more people were travelling locally.
"Because of Northland's proximity to Auckland, and the region being such a popular destination throughout the year, there are increased numbers of people travelling to the region. That has to have an impact on demand for the rescue service."
The first half of 2021 had seen some dramatic and challenging rescues, including a winch rescue off Mangawhai Heads after a man almost lost his leg following an incident involving a boat propeller.
A call to Rainbow Falls in Kerikeri saw the rescue chopper team join St John and other emergency service agencies to rescue a man who had spent 90 minutes in the water with a broken leg.
Since 1988, Northland rescue choppers had carried more than 21,000 people, and while January and February were traditionally the busiest months, so far this year March topped the list with 140 missions.
"One of the key reasons we can continue to meet ongoing demand and keep our choppers in the air is the generous support we get right across the community, from sponsorship by local businesses to fundraising by community groups and Northland locals," Gibbons added.
"It's great to know they really appreciate the fact we have a world-class air ambulance service for the region."