The launch of two new helicopters comes at a time when the Northland Rescue Helicopter service has flown a record number of callouts.

A tally of rescues show the service responded to 984 callouts last year, significantly up from 901 in 2017.

Northland Emergency Services Trust Chair Paul Ahlers said when the new choppers come into service in March it will increase the capability of its fleet of long-range Sikorsky helicopters.

"These wonderful new machines will enhance what is already New Zealand's leading rescue helicopter operation and with demand on our service increasing at a steady rate, the new machines couldn't be going into operation at a better time."

Advertisement

The new helicopters are currently being assembled and tested at the rescue chopper base in Whangarei and are on track to be ready for operation in March.

The two new helicopters being worked on and scheduled to be launched in March. Photo / John Stone
The two new helicopters being worked on and scheduled to be launched in March. Photo / John Stone

As well as a busy year for rescues, the generosity of the Northland community also saw the service raise a record $385,000 during its annual appeal.

Mr Ahlers said the continued generosity of the Northland public helped to keep its choppers in the air and this year's appeal will also support the purchase of the new aircraft.

"We rely so much on our community and the funds raised this year means Northlanders will have helped us to update the aircraft and provide the best possible service we can.

"The result of the appeal is testament to how much Northlanders value the service and all the people involved who play a vital role in ensuring we have a world class air ambulance service in Northland."

The dedication and expertise of the Northland rescue chopper team is the reason it is able to respond to the increasing number of missions, chief pilot Peter Turnbull said.

"The team needs to be ready to go at all times of the day and night, so it is challenging and often very emotional work. But being able to do something we love while also saving lives is a very rewarding thing."

All the Rescue helicopters lined up at the Kensington Park hangers. Photo/ John Stone
All the Rescue helicopters lined up at the Kensington Park hangers. Photo/ John Stone

In 2018 the services three rescue choppers had an average flight time of 84 minutes, meaning NRH pilots flew around 75,852 minutes – or the same time it would take to fly to London and back nine times.

The rescue chopper pilots spent around 45 hours waiting for helicopter engines to cool down last year, which is enough time to watch a movie 24 times over, or just shy of the time it would take to walk from Whangarei to Cape Reinga.