The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service conducts training exercises with their fleet just outside of Lismore.  Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star
The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service conducts training exercises with their fleet just outside of Lismore. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star Marc Stapelberg

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.

GEARING UP: The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service is getting ready to make the switch to a new base at Lismore Airport and a bigger helicopter.
GEARING UP: The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service is getting ready to make the switch to a new base at Lismore Airport and a bigger helicopter. Marc Stapelberg

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.

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service conducts training exercises with their fleet just outside of Lismore.
The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service conducts training exercises with their fleet just outside of Lismore. Marc Stapelberg

"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.



Help give Tammara a 'farewell she deserves'

Premium Content Help give Tammara a 'farewell she deserves'

A Gofundme page has been set up to help the Casino woman's family

COVID FREE? How many days since the region’s last case?

Premium Content COVID FREE? How many days since the region’s last case?

Despite a run of no COVID cases, the testing regime remains in place

Woman arrested after several cars rammed at holiday park

Premium Content Woman arrested after several cars rammed at holiday park

Police are investigating another similar incident nearby