8-Sep-2021 Source: Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust
The Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust announces it will replace the A109 helicopter that has served the region for the last 12 years.
Its replacement, a BK117 aircraft is the most common rescue helicopter in New Zealand. It is a larger aircraft that can comfortably accommodate the increase in equipment required to enable the best possible level of care for patients.
“The Trust is confident this will provide the safest, most appropriate and financially responsible solution for the Taranaki community,” says Chair Evan Cottam.
The demands on the Rescue Helicopter have grown, with the number of missions annually in Taranaki steadily increasing over the past three years. A record-breaking 287 missions were carried out in 2020.
“We are very proud of the service that has been provided to our community by the A109 over the years. It has made a significant, positive contribution to the lives of many people,” says Cottam.
While the A109 – known locally as Bumble due to the distinctive black and yellow markings – has been absent over Taranaki skies since February, there has been no break in the 24/7 life-saving service.
The helicopter was sent for scheduled maintenance at the start of the year and in addition to the comprehensive service, several additional parts requiring attention were identified which resulted in the Trust pausing to consider the best course of action for the community.
“Safety is our highest priority, so we wanted to make an informed decision for the sustainability of the service,” says Cottam. “One of the benefits of being part of a wider collective has been the access to dedicated relief helicopters to provide a seamless service to the community.”
The Trust’s decision comes with the opportunity to align the aircraft with the rest of the joint venture fleet; hence the Trust has decided to move to a BK117 which will be leased.
The BK117 helicopter, which is has been utilised while the A109 was out of service, has given the Trust confidence that it is the perfect solution to meet the needs of the community.
It also removes the challenges associated with switching between aircrafts and allows for consistent maintenance planning across the fleet, with parts available in New Zealand.
“One of the other issues we have is that our pilots have to be rated on the different types of aircraft for us to provide a continuous service. Having a standard aircraft across the group gives us greater resilience with more pilots and crew qualified to operate the aircraft.”
Cottam is quick to stress that regardless of the aircraft, patients could expect the same level of dedicated service from the crew which is the hallmark of the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter.
“Our Crew is dedicated to ensuring rescue operations are ready to go if an emergency or accident occurs in the Taranaki region. The crew spends many hours training to coordinate life-saving missions, sometimes in extreme climate conditions, and are 100% committed to providing a rapid response rescue service.”
While leasing the replacement means the Trust does not have to raise several million dollars to fund the purchase of a new aircraft, the need to fundraise approximately one million dollars per annum will continue.
This crucial financial support ensures the Rescue Helicopter can continue to bring life-saving equipment, rescue personnel and trauma-trained medics directly to the Taranaki community.
“We remain grateful to all our sponsors, funders, and donors who support TRHT to deliver this essential service.”