Tom Hulse (front) and chief pilot Lynton Beggs (rear right) prepare for the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter’s 6000th mission.
Tom Hulse (front) and chief pilot Lynton Beggs (rear right) prepare for the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter’s 6000th mission. DAVID NIELSEN

Chopper clocks up 6000 missions

WHEN a cardiac patient needed to be transferred to Brisbane yesterday, he became the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter’s 6000th mission.

And just as the rescue helicopter clocked up 6000 trips, new pilot Tom Hulse was aboard on his very first flight with the organisation.

Before joining the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter team at the Lismore base, Mr Hulse had been working on offshore oil and gas operations for the past six years, and has a decade of flying experience.

“I enjoyed my previous position, but I wanted to become part of something more meaningful,” he said.

“For quite a while now I had been thinking about making the move into emergency services.

“It’s an area where you can actually help make a difference in people’s lives.”

So when the call for help came just after lunch time for the crew to transfer the male patient from Lismore Base Hospital to Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, Mr Hulse grabbed his pilot gear and prepared for the trip.

As a mission observer, Mr Hulse accompanied pilot Lynton Beggs, learning the ropes of transporting critically ill patients.

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter general manager Kris Beavis said the mission was ‘unusual for us’.

“We have our 6000th mission and a new pilot joining the mission as an observer,” Mr Beavis said.

“Tom is a really good fit for the organisation and we’re looking forward to working with him in the long term.”

In the meantime, Mr Beavis hopes the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter will continue to serve the needs of seriously ill members of the community.

“We’ve had a positive impact on a lot of families, and the important thing is to make a difference in even just one person’s life,” he said.

“It’s great knowing we are here for the community, but in saying that we also couldn’t exist without the support of the community.”

In their 27 years of existence since humble beginnings as a beach patrol service in Ballina in 1982, Mr Beavis said they had helped the equivalent of the population of the Lower Richmond.

“As the population grows, we expect missions to increase, but hope highway improvements mean we will be called to fewer motor vehicle incidents,” he said.

“It’s humbling to think of the large number of people alive today because they had access to a free, 24/7 aero-medical service ready to fly them wherever they needed to go for life-saving treatment after an accident or injury.

“Today’s mission is a good example of the way in which the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter provides an essential service.”



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