KNOWN for its iconic red and yellow design, the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service's new and most powerful chopper takes off today sporting a refreshed look.
The $18 million state-of-the-art helicopter has been kept under wraps for weeks at Lismore Airport, but this afternoon it will take to the sky for the first time in the region.
For the next three months the service's rescue pilots and flight crews will take part in a training program aimed at familiarising them thoroughly with the AW139 chopper.
Helicopter service spokesman Roger Fry said the "progressive training" regime would teach everyone, from doctors to pilots, how to operate in the Westpac 2.
Mr Fry said Northern Rivers residents could expect to see the new-look red and yellow helicopter conducting training exercises at various sites, from Evans Head to Whiporie and Toonumbar Dam.
"We are going to be flying in all these different areas to expose the crews. They go there all the time but not in this machine," Mr Fry said.
He said this month would be committed to up-skilling the flight crew and pilots to fly the more advanced aircraft.
It'll be the paramedic team's turn next month, followed by local doctors being shown the ropes in March.
Westpac 2 is bigger, faster and a more powerful aircraft for the long-standing helicopter service.
It travels 46km/h faster than the current chopper, has a cruising speed of 306km/h and is able to fly at 20,000ft - that's 6000ft higher than what the service's crews are used to.
Its engine power is nearly double its predecessor at 1142kw per engine.
Like the current model, Westpac 2 will be able to transport two patients.
The chopper will be showcased alongside the service's other aircraft - to show the differences between the two - at the Great Eastern Fly-In, Evans Head, on Sunday.
Westpac 2's unveiling comes just months before the new Helibase is set to open at Lismore Airport.