Home' Horizons : Horizons Aug Sep 14 Contents 44 Horizons August / September 2014
Story Virginia Millen
More than a decade after the service began,
the RAC Rescue helicopter has gone from
strength to strength, reports Virginia Millen.
he RAC Rescue
helicopter is Western
helicopter delivering vital
search and rescue and critical
care medical services 24 hours
a day, every day of the year.
Managed by the Department
of Fire and Emergency Services
and funded by the state
government, with sponsorship
from the RAC, the helicopter
and its crew have saved
hundreds of lives during its 10
years of service.
Since its inception, the
RAC Rescue helicopter team
has included the helicopter
and flight crews supplied by
contractor CHC Helicopters,
with aviation-trained critical care
paramedics seconded from St
Base manager and pilot Andy
Greenall has worked for the
service since it began.
“More than 10 years ago, the
Western Australian Government
identified a need for a
dedicated emergency rescue
helicopter service. Prior to that,
there was a service of sorts, but
not one dedicated as a rescue
and air ambulance helicopter,”
says Mr Greenall.
With an operating range of
200 kilometres from Perth, the
service covers 90 per cent of
WA’s population and can be
airborne within 15 minutes of
receiving an incident call. In
exceptional circumstances it
may even operate beyond that
Mr Greenall says the
biggest change to the way
the helicopter has been used
during its 10 years of service is
the frequency with which it is
In its first year of service it
undertook just 164 missions.
Since December 2003 it has
undertaken more than 3700
missions. Last year saw the
highest number of missions
ever recorded in a single year,
with the helicopter undertaking
510 missions, the first time in
the service’s history that more
than 500 missions were flown
in a year.
Based at Jandakot airport,
on the southern side of Perth,
the service undertakes three
types of missions: Primary
missions involve flying critical-care
specialists straight to the scene
of an incident, including car and
motorcycle crashes, and then
transporting the injured directly
to hospital; the helicopter’s
secondary role is to provide
essential hospital transfers; and
its search and rescue role can
include searching for missing
people, maritime operations in
support of the Australian Maritime
Safety Authority, or attending cliff
or sea rescues.
Mr Greenall says some of the
most challenging missions are
the ones where the weather is
inclement or night is falling.
“Moving platforms, such as
boats, are always fairly hard
work, especially if the conditions
aren’t good, if there’s poor
weather or it’s getting close to
dark,” he says.
“Going out and trying to
find lone walkers is another
challenge,” he says. On one
mission, Mr Greenall, the pilot and
his crew, an air-crewman and a
St John Ambulance critical care
paramedic, who is also trained
as rescue crewman, had to lower
a winch in the dark to rescue a
walker, who was suffering from
exposure and heart problems.
“It was a good all-round crew
operation because it involved
all of us in different aspects,”
RAC Sponsorship Manager
Carina Lauder says the RAC
is committed to ensuring the
emergency rescue helicopter
service will continue its vital role
in the West Australian community.
“The service is a prime
example of our commitment to
assisting people in times of
need,” she says. “RAC Rescue
is at the core of what the RAC
stands for in terms of helping
West Australians.” l
10 years of service
Did you know
The number of missions
undertaken in the first
quarter of this year, higher
than any quarter in the
record year of 2013.
of missions were to
regional WA in 2013.
The number of hours the
RAC Rescue helicopter
was airborne in 2013.
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at National Lifestyle Villages Bridgewater
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