Sweeping changes for iconic rescue service
THERE'S a lot of change underway for the Lismore-based Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter service but one thing is sure to remain the same.
The iconic red colour of the life-saving chopper.
From April 1 next year it will be visible overhead on a series of newer, bigger and more advance helicopters, as part of a range of sweeping changes to the service.
The changes include a new helibase at the Lismore Airport, which is now a month into construction, a new helipad on the roof of the Lismore Base Hospital, which has been completed and a new $18 million AW139 helicopter.
The new helicopter will be one of four rotated between Newcastle and Lismore, with one stationed at each, one grounded for maintenance and engineering and one that can be stationed at either.
Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter general manager Kris Beavis said despite all the changes, it would still be the same team flying and fundraising and any funds raised locally would be staying local.
He said having the helicopter land on top of the Lismore Base Hospital may also leave some people surprised by just how many jobs the service is tasked to.
The new helicopters are about 30% bigger than the existing ones with four out of five of the service's pilots having already been to Italy for specialised training.
"There will be a couple of things that will be in the new aircraft that aren't in the old one,” Mr Beavis said.
"Probably the biggest one is a patient lift frame.”
He said the lift frames would help to ensure doctors, paramedics, pilots and crew didn't seriously injury themselves lifting patients into the helicopter.
The new base and helicopters have a deadline of April 1 next year to be fully operational.
"In terms of completion... we've got to be active by the first of April next year,” Mr Beavis said.
"So there's a building window there and as we've seen with some of the other property being developed around that area, it all happens really quickly.
"We're confident that that milestone will happen for us.”
Although the new helibase has come under fire over concerns fog will affect the service's ability to respond to incidents, Mr Beavis said the site was still far less affected than many other rescue helibases in Australia and wouldn't interfere with the majority of taskings which occur between 10am and 4pm.
It also allowed the helicopter to use a runway for take-off, which would put less stress on the aircraft and is quicker.
He said the alternative option, to build a new base in Ballina, would have faced delays if and when the airspace becomes controlled due to ever-increase flight and passenger numbers at the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport.