SPEED and the need to fly into densely populated areas are two of the main reasons for a Trustpower TECT rescue helicopter upgrade.
Base manager Liam Brettkelly said the Trustpower TECT rescue helicopter outfit had taken delivery of a twin-engine BK117 helicopter, replacing the single-engine Squirrel helicopter that had 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,” he said.
The twin-engine helicopter was used by the pilots for the first time on Monday at 10am, when it was dispatched to the East Cape settlement of Te Araroa.
“The new BK117 was utilised, retrieving its first patient, a 55-year-old local woman who was suffering from a cardiac event,” Mr Brettkelly said.
“The weather conditions presented the crew with some challenges on the way to the remote East Cape settlement.”
The woman was airlifted to Whakatane Hospital for treatment.
“On return to the Tauranga base, we were called to Paeroa to uplift a local man with a serious medical condition,” Mr Brettkelly said.
The man was flown to Waikato Hospital for treatment.
Both missions were carried out by pilots Liam Brettkelly and Barry Vincent and crewman Callan Carn-Bennett.
Mr Brettkelly said the BK117 was the most popular rescue helicopter in New Zealand and also around the world.
“It is an extremely useful combination of multi-role capability,” he said.
“The helicopter comes with high performance and agility, with sufficient room to carry the crews and patients required across the broad range of uses that rescue helicopters are tasked to in New Zealand.”
Switching to a BK117 helicopter is a significant upgrade and follows the lead of other Philips Search and Rescue Helicopter bases in the Waikato-King Country and the Manawatu-Whanganui.
“Moving to a BK117 will allow increased capabilities as an emergency service provider,” Mr Brettkelly said.
The new helicopter was 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,” Mr Brettkelly said.
An important reason for the upgrade is that only twin-engine helicopters were authorised to fly into densely populated areas.
In addition, the BK117 was faster and the rear cabin was larger, which allowed medical staff to work on patients more freely while airborne.
Operating the BK117 would increase the annual operating costs of the Tauranga base.
“The cost is outweighed by the benefits of a more modern machine and avionics, as well as the safety benefits, such as crash-resistant fuel tanks, seats and structures,” Mr Brettkelly said.
The upgrade to a BK117 helicopter is initially being fulfilled by a lease machine, while Philips Search and Rescue Trust source and fit out “the best machine for the community”.
“The increase in cost will be determined once the most suitable machine is sourced.”
Mr Brettkelly said the Trust-power TECT rescue helicopter service carried out 203 missions last year.
“This is an increase from the previous year,” he said.
“Many of these missions were conducted in challenging locations and in adverse weather conditions.”
THE Trustpower TECT rescue helicopter can be airborne in 10 minutes, and in a life and death situation, this speed and agility can make all the difference.
It is the timely assistance that the Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter provides that can reduce disability and improve survival – the sooner resuscitation and treatment begins the greater chance of patient recovery. In fact, in most instances, the rescue helicopter reduces travel time by more than three-quarters in comparison to a road ambulance.
The service is governed by the Philips Search and Rescue Trust, which is a charitable organisation, operating rescue helicopters throughout the Central North Island.
Philips Search and Rescue Trust relies on support from sponsors and community donations.
This crucial financial support ensures the rescue helicopters can continue to bring life-saving equipment, rescue personnel, and trauma-trained medics directly to the patient.