Northland Emergency Services Trust (NEST) has announced the purchase of a third helicopter to help service its Northland operations.
The purchase is significant for emergency services in the region, with Northland's steady population growth over recent years putting increased pressure on the capacity of organisations such as NEST toprovide comprehensive coverage.
The investment is welcome news for local medical professionals andresidents of Northland communities, 11,500 of whom have used theservice since its inception in 1988.
Garry Ware, CEO of the Whangaroa Health Services Trust, says the addition of a third helicopter is essential in a region where remote townships struggle for direct access to quality medicalcare.
"The North has a large number of isolated communities that rely heavily on the services NEST provides to maintain connections to major hospitals, with access by road in excess of a several hoursfor some regions " says Ware.
"For those travelling in one of NEST's helicopters the level of need is almost always high and time is of the essence. Put simply,the service increases the chance of our people staying alive. Adding to that resource to ensure complete coverage for our region can only be a positive," he says.
The move follows the three helicopter precedent set by Otago which, along with Northland, has the highest workload of the rescue services nationally.
NEST Chairman John Bain says the addition of the new helicopter was essential in ensuring rescue services and medical transfers cancontinue to keep pace with demand.
"Civil aviation requirements state that each of our helicopters must undergo a full inspection every 300 flight hours with each ofthose inspections lasting around five weeks. With the rapid growthin Northland driving up the number of call outs, we are reaching this 300 hour mark increasingly quickly," he says.
"While the grounding and inspection of these helicopters is carefully scheduled by the Trust, not having a backup helicopter atall times in such an expansive area is certainly not ideal."
The new Sikorsky S76 helicopter will go some way to alleviating the demand caused by the increase in flight hours and will also introduce a second winch - a much needed resource for rescue operations. Currently Northland goes without a winch service during inspection periods.
Along with improving rescue services to Northland, the additional helicopter will benefit other North Island services with a backup helicopter when required. During times when all three aircrafts are operational, one will also be made available for the Advanced Pilot Training Programme at Ardmore where training is focused on up-skilling pilots in a vocation which is steadily in decline. The revenue generated from this will further offset operating costs fora third helicopter, ensuring local residents in Northland communities will not wear the cost.
[photo is of one of the original two in the fleet, not the new one]
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