Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service

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For the New Zealand rescue helicopter, see Westpac Rescue Helicopter (New Zealand).
Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service
Ls1 crew.jpg
A rescue air crewman in action.
Formation 1973
Parent organization
Surf Life Saving Australia
Subsidiaries Hunter Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Limited

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service is a helicopter surf lifesaving service that operates in Australia.

Founded in 1973 by Surf Life Saving Australia, a not-for-profit organisation, the Service has carried out more than 50,000 flights ranging from patient transfers to search and rescue missions. The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service is the longest serving search and rescue helicopter service in the world, it is also the largest non-profit search and rescue, and aeromedical retrieval service in Australia. Its aircraft and trained medical and operational crews respond quickly and effectively to emergencies threatening the life, health and safety of people caused through medical emergency, illness, natural disaster, accidents or mishap.

The major sponsor of the helicopter services is Westpac, an Australian-based financial institution, with operations in New Zealand.

Role[edit]

When contracted, the Wespac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters respond to medical emergencies throughout the most populous regions of Australia, covering hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of bushland, mountain ranges, Australia's busiest highways as well as the coastlines of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

The helicopters are tasked to undertake a number of different missions:[citation needed]

  • Primary missions: tasked to an industrial, recreational, motor vehicle accident or natural disaster to deliver their medical expertise and provide life saving support.
  • Secondary missions: tasked to transport a patient from a country hospital to a metropolitan hospital for specialist care.
  • Search and rescue missions: tasked to locate an distress beacon activated from a downed aircraft or vessel out at sea.
  • Recovery missions: tasked to recover a body from an inaccessible area.

Organisational structure[edit]

While the service operates under the umbrella name of Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service, autonomous, yet affiliated, non-profit organisations deliver the service to meet the specific needs of local communities. Each organisation is governed by a Board with local management and an advisory committee. The relevant organisations are:

  • Hunter Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Limited[1][2]
  • Southern Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Pty Ltd,[3] a wholly owned subsidiary of Surf Life Saving Australia[4]
  • Northern Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Pty Ltd,[5] a wholly owned subsidiary of Surf Life Saving Australia[6]
  • Surf Lifesaving Queensland Inc.
  • Surf Life Saving South Australia Inc.
  • Tasmanian Air Rescue Trust[7]
  • Life Saving Victoria
  • Surf Life Saving Western Australia Inc.

Operations[edit]

Westpac Rescue Helicopter, Tasmania, a Kawasaki BK117 B-2, at Austin's Ferry, Tasmania.

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service operates in six states in Australia. In most states, the Service is contracted to fly helicopters with on-board specialist doctors and paramedics.

In New South Wales, there are four operation bases and a total of eight rescue aircraft. Westpac 1 and Westpac 2 are located at the base in Newcastle. This base also serves as the head of operations for the Tamworth services, where Westpac 3 and Westpac 4 are located. In Sydney, Lifesaver 1 is based; Lifesaver 3 is based in Moruya; and in Lismore both Life Saver 2 and Life Saver 4 are located. The Lismore base also houses a third Life Saver helicopter, purchased for a possible Coffs Harbour base. With support of major sponsor, Westpac, Southern Region opened a summer time base at Moruya Airport in December 2010 for three months. A total of 67 missions were achieved in the first season. The previous Labor Government[clarification needed] provided funding for Sydney to return to 24/7 operations (from 1 October 2011) and the south coast service would become a year round, day-time operation (from 1 December 2011). Southern now operates two bases covering from the Central Coast to the Victorian border.[citation needed]

In Queensland, the Service patrols the southeast coast, performing beach patrols, shark sightings and warnings and provides assistance to Surf Lifesavers in the water and on the beach. Westpac also sponsors three Jet Rescue Boats (JRB) in Queensland.[citation needed]

In Victoria, the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter is being re-introduced in the upcoming season.[when?] The Westpac Aerial Service, which currently consists of Lifesaver 7, a fixed wing Cessna 337 and Lifesaver 8, also a fixed wing, Partenavia P68-B, will have the increased capability of a rescue helicopter. The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter will conduct regular patrols and undertake rescue missions across Victoria. The service will work closely with the volunteer beach patrols, paid lifeguards, and offshore services, and is readily available to assist other emergency services and government agencies. The service will also undertake community education and promotional activities throughout the year and will be available 24/7 for call-outs. Life Saving Victoria also works closely with the police air-wing and the Southern Peninsula Rescue Squad which enables the fastest response to emergency calls.[citation needed]

In Tasmania, the Service provides emergency services and has a contract with Ambulance Tasmania as well as the Tasmanian Police.[citation needed]

In South Australia, Service helicopters patrol beaches on weekends, public holidays and busy weekdays over summer from November through to March each year. Its patrolling region is the Adelaide mid-south coastline from North Haven to Normanville, and the South Coast from Parsons Beach to the Murray Mouth, including Victor Harbor, Port Elliot, Middleton and Goolwa. It works together with other Surf Lifesaving support services, including Lifesaver 2 and Lifesaver 3, the state Jet Rescue Boats.[citation needed]

The Service launched operations in Western Australia in December 2008 with patrols beaches on weekends, public holidays and busy weekdays over the summer months.[citation needed]

Flight crew[edit]

As well as pilots there are several specialist crewmembers. The air crewman assists the pilot with communication; navigation; and landing by providing the pilot with accurate clearance; helicopter safety; and operating the rescue winch. A rescue crewman's duties include going down the winch, scaling cliff faces and swimming. Rescue crew are also responsible for passenger safety during Passenger Transport Operations. Special Casualty Access Team (SCAT) paramedics possess skills in intensive care / Advance Life Support (ALS) and trauma management; and have skills in accessing and treating patients in difficult or remote locations. SCATs work closely with the local accredited rescue units to access, assess, triage and treat patients. When required, SCATs may also provide assistance with the extrication of the patient. They provide patient care and are responsible for preparing the aeromedical evacuation missions, coordinating with the flight crew and other medical personnel, as well as liaising with retrieval services. Doctors specially qualified in Emergency Care and retrieval medicine are also part of the team. This enables the crew to provide critical care to a patients anywhere it is needed.

Aircraft[edit]

The following aircraft, bases and coverage summarise the activities of the Service:

Currently in use[edit]

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service aircraft currently in use
State Regions served Call sign Aircraft type Image Base Notes
New South Wales Hunter Westpac 1[citation needed] Bell 412SP VH-HRSResized.jpg Broadmeadow, Newcastle [8][9]
Westpac 2[citation needed] [8][10][11][12]
New England/North West Westpac 3[citation needed] Kawasaki BK117 Tamworth Airport [8][13][14][15]
Westpac 4[citation needed] [8][16][17]
Central Coast, Greater Metropolitan Sydney, Illawarra and South Coast Lifesaver 1[citation needed] Lifesaver1.jpg La Perouse,
Botany Bay National Park
[18][19][20]
South Coast Lifesaver 3[citation needed] Moruya Airport [18][21][22]
Northern Rivers and South East Queensland Lifesaver 2[citation needed] Aérospatiale AS.365N-2 Dauphin Lismore Airport [23][24][25]
Northern Rivers and South East Queensland Lifesaver 4[citation needed] Lismore Airport [23][26][27]
Queensland South East Queensland MBB Bo 105 [28]
[28]
Lifesaver 5[citation needed] Eurocopter EC135 Carrara [28][29][30]
Sunshine Coast Lifesaver 6[citation needed] Aérospatiale AS350 Caloundra Airport [28][29]
South Australia Westpac 1
(or "Nick")[citation needed]
Aérospatiale AS350BA Adelaide Airport, Adelaide [31][32][33]
Tasmania Kawasaki BK117 Hobart Airport [34][35]
Victoria Lifesaver 36[citation needed] Eurocopter AS350 Avalon Airport, Geelong [36][37]
Lifesaver 37[citation needed] Eurocopter EC120 Colibri Moorabbin Airport, Melbourne [38]
Western Australia Perth Lifesaver 8
(or "John Roberts AO")[citation needed]
AgustaWestland AW119 Koala Rous Head [39][40]
South-West Lifesaver 9[citation needed] Eurocopter AS350 Busselton Regional Airport [39][41]

Formerly operated[edit]

Helicopter emergency medical service in New South Wales[edit]

Since the 1970s helicopters have been part of the fleet of NSW Ambulance. The SLSA-owned Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service (WLSRHS) started receiving NSW Government funding for its service in 1978; with funding and tasking arrangements put in place in 1989. By 2006 there were nine helicopters operating across the state. Reviews commissioned by NSW Ambulance during 2004 and 2005 identified a number of systemic weaknesses with the services provided by both the WLSHRS and by CareFlight,[42] delivered under a mix of government funding, corporate sponsorship and fundraising. During 2006, a competitive tenders process commenced to provide helicopters in Greater Sydney, which covers the Sydney, Wollongong and Orange areas, as well as other locations across NSW. In December 2006, John Hatzistergos, the NSW Minister for Health, announced the government's decision to award a contract for the Greater Sydney area to Canadian Helicopter Corporation (CHC), which was already providing a service in Wollongong and Canberra, for commencement from May 2007; effectively terminating the contracts for the Greater Sydney area held by WLSHRS and CareFlight.[42] No interstate operations were affected by the change in contract. A summary of the outcome of the competitive tendering process is set out below:

Helicopter emergency medical service providers in NSW
Location Provider
(pre-May 2007)
Provider
(June 2007 - May 2014)
Sydney CareFlight CHC
SLSA (WLSHRS) CHC
ChildFlight
Wollongong SLSA (WLSHRS),
sub-contracted to CHC 2005–2007
CHC
Orange CareFlight CHC
Newcastle SLSA (WLSHRS)
Tamworth SLSA (WLSHRS)
Lismore SLSA (WLSHRS)
Canberra SouthCare
Source:Performance Audit: Helicopter Emergency Medical Service Contract (2010), p.8.[42]

The decision to appoint a for profit corporation to deliver the service, in lieu of not-profit entities, drew considerable media, community, and political attention.[43][44][45][46] As a result, the NSW Auditor-General was instructed to delivere a performance audit of the helicopter emergency medical services contract process and whether satisfactory outcomes for Greater Sydney were delivered under awarding the contract to CHC. Reporting in 2010, he found that:[42][47]

"...the contract process was satisfactory. Ambulance data show that the performance of CHC is meeting contract requirements with the exception of the availability of the Wollongong helicopter. [NSW] Ambulance [Service]'s ability to transport patients to the right hospital at the right time has improved. However the cost of the new Greater Sydney helicopter contract is three times higher than before."

— Peter Achterstraat, Auditor-General of New South Wales

Ahead of the publication of the Auditor-General's report, it was reported in December 2009 that CHC were seeking to sell its Australian air services arm, following a series of mishaps including engine failures, windows falling out of the aircraft, no installed air conditioning system inside the cabin as well as response delays to accident sites.[45]

In 2011, Jillian Skinner, the NSW Minister for Health, commissioned a strategic review of the NSW Ambulance Service, including its aeromedical operations. Ernst & Young were engaged to assist with the review; and delivered a final report with 56 recommendations that were released for public comment from December 2012 to mid March 2013. Following consideration of the 73 submissions received, and further consultation with clinical and aviation experts, in 2013 the NSW Government released the Reform Plan for Aeromedical (Rotary Wing) Retrieval Services in NSW. Along with other reforms, two key issues impact the ongoing operations of the WLSHRS:[48]

  1. The helicopter retrieval fleet will be standardised to two types of helicopters for the State, and new helicopters will be phased in as part of the procurement and implementation process for longer contract terms of between 7 – 10 years; and
  2. NSW Health will structure helicopter contracts around two regions within NSW so that each region has one operator, including options for consortia arrangements:
  • Northern Region: Lismore, Tamworth and Newcastle
  • Southern Region: Sydney (Bankstown and Westmead (NETS)), Wollongong and Orange which will work with SouthCare which is the joint NSW and ACT government helicopter retrieval service based in Canberra.
Westpac Rescue AW139

In December 2014, it was announced that that the partnership of the Northern Region SLSA and the Hunter Region SLSA had been successful in the NSW Aeromedical Retrieval Network tender. As a result the service will re-equip with AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters from early 2017 to be operated from bases the existing base in Tamworth as well as upgraded based in Lismore and Newcastle [49] .

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Current details for ABN: 40 002 862 026". ABN Lookup. Australian Government. 30 May 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "Our People". About us. Hunter Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Limited. 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "Current details for ABN: 49 002 661 181". ABN Lookup. Australian Government. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Our team". About us. Southern Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Pty Ltd. 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "Current details for ABN: 25 003 171 373". ABN Lookup. Australian Government. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Our Board". About us. Northern Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Pty Ltd. 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "Management Team". The Rescue Service. Tasmanian Air Rescue Trust. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Operations". Hunter Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Limited. 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
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  10. ^ NBN TV [dead link]
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  13. ^ Watson, Rhett (2 February 2007). "Hero Westpac pilot praised". The Telegraph (Australia). Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  14. ^ "Search results: VH-HRT". Aircraft register. Civil Aviation Safety Authority. 16 March 2007. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
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  17. ^ "kawasaki heavy industries BK117B-1: C/N 1050". Helicopter history site. Jorge Gazzola. 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  18. ^ a b "Our Aircraft". Operations. Southern Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Pty Ltd. 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  19. ^ "Search results: VH-SLU". Aircraft register. Civil Aviation Safety Authority. 24 June 2006. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  20. ^ "kawasaki heavy industries BK117B-1: C/N 1065". Helicopter history site. Jorge Gazzola. 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  21. ^ "Search results: VH-SLA". Aircraft register. Civil Aviation Safety Authority. 24 June 2006. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  22. ^ "kawasaki heavy industries BK117B-1: C/N 1048". Helicopter history site. Jorge Gazzola. 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  23. ^ a b "Our aircraft". Operations. Northern Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Pty Ltd. 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  24. ^ "Search results: VH-LRC". Aircraft register. Civil Aviation Safety Authority. 26 June 2007. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
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  27. ^ "eurocopter AS365N2 Dauphin 2: C/N 6480". Helicopter history site. Jorge Gazzola. 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  28. ^ a b c d "Search results: Surf Life Saving Queensland". Aircraft register. Civil Aviation Safety Authority. 28 May 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  29. ^ a b "Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter Rescue Service". Lifesaving. Surf Life Saving Queensland. 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  30. ^ "eurocopter EC135P2: C/N 0331". Helicopter history site. Jorge Gazzola. 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  31. ^ Keene, Neil; Holland, Malcolm (17 March 2011). "Great white responsible for attack on wakeboarder". The Telegraph (Australia). Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  32. ^ Sexton, Mike (5 December 2006). "Research sheds new light on sharks" (transcript). The 7.30 Report (Australia: ABC TV). Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  33. ^ "Search results: VH-UTN". Aircraft register. Civil Aviation Safety Authority. 29 May 2006. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  34. ^ "Helicopter". Our Aircraft. Tasmanian Air Rescue Trust. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  35. ^ "Search results: VH-EMS". Aircraft register. Civil Aviation Safety Authority. 15 November 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
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  37. ^ "Search results: VH-LSR". Aircraft register. Civil Aviation Safety Authority. 19 January 2010. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  38. ^ "Search results: VH-ECP". Aircraft register. Civil Aviation Safety Authority. 14 June 2006. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  39. ^ a b "Helicopters". Safety & rescue services. Surf Life Saving Western Australia Inc. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
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  41. ^ "Search results: VH-ELR". Aircraft register. Civil Aviation Safety Authority. 25 August 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  42. ^ a b c d Achterstraat, Peter; Auditor-General of New South Wales (September 2010). "Performance Audit: Helicopter Emergency Medical Service Contract" (PDF). NSW Ambulance Service. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  43. ^ "Ambulance service urges Careflight to return to talks". ABC News (Australia). 14 December 2006. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  44. ^ Bowman, Rebecca (11 December 2006). "Flight turbulence". Central Western Daily. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  45. ^ a b Sikora, Kate (11 December 2009). "State's helicopter rescue service up in the air". The Daily Telegraph (Australia). Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  46. ^ Gregory, Helen (22 September 2012). "Rescuers battle for survival". Newcastle Herald. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  47. ^ Corderoy, Amy (23 September 2010). "Audit questions contract for medical helicopter services". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  48. ^ "Reform Plan for Aeromedical (Rotary Wing) Retrieval Services in NSW" (PDF). Ministry of Health. Government of New South Wales. 2013. p. 15. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  49. ^ Newcastle helicopter base plans unveiled Newcastle Herald.

External links[edit]