One of the more interesting, and reassuring sights in New Zealand skies are the Rescue Aircraft - which are in the main helicopters. Their bright colouring makes them a brilliant subject, but their sound at night can be somewhat chilling (I regularly see and hear the local Trustbank Helicopter in transit). Below are some images of helicopters I have seen in practice, and in serious action!
Rangitoto Island Cutter Buoy, January 1994 This was the only time I've seen a rescue chopper in action actually at the accident scene.
The photos were taken after the departure of the 'Whitbread Round the World Race' fleet from Auckland. My partner and I had gone out with her Uncle and other family members to watch the festivities. We were moored near the Coast-Guard Cutter Buoy at Rangitoto Island when a yacht pulled in with an injured person lying on the deck. Within minutes the Westpac rescue helicopter was overhead, and a Paramedic was lowered to the yacht. While the helicopter waited on shore nearby (we could hear it, but not see it) he injured person was checked out and transferred to an adjacent catamaran type launch. The helicopter then returned and winched the injured person and Paramedic aboard, before departing at speed toward Auckland. Later in the day we found out via a radio report that the injured person was a 14 year-old boy who had head and shoulder injuries after being struck by the yacht's boom.
The helicopter (ZK-HHV) is a MBB-Kawasaki BK-117 which has been in service since mid-1993 is operated by the Auckland Rescue Helicopter trust (WestPac is a major sponsor). Based at Mission Bay in Auckland, the SAR equipped aircraft can carry up to ten people, and has a comprehensive medical setup. The crew of three, includes a St.Johns Ambulance medic to provide immediate aid, and a variety of Doctors and ICU Nurses are on call. More information can be found here .
Auckland Air Expo, Auckland International, November 1992 The following images show the second WestPac helicopter (now replaced by the BK-117 illustrated above) displaying a winch demonstration, illustrated how a crew member could be lowered, and then retrieved along with an accident victim on a stretcher. The aircraft (ZK-HZP) is an Aerospatiale 350 Ecureuil (Squirrel). More information on the Squirrel can be found here .
Warbirds Association Airshow, Ardmore Aerodrome, January 1990
The following images show the original WestPac helicopter (subsequently replaced by the AS 350 Squirrel illustrated above) displaying the skills used in carrying out its serious day-to-day tasks. The display incorporated an approach, followed by the disembarking of crew to attend to simulated car-crash victims. The victims were then loaded aboard and the helicopter made a high speed departure. More information on the LongRanger can be found here .
Taupo Airport, 27 April, 1997 These images show the TranzRail Squirrel arriving and departing from its base at Taupo Airport. More information on the Squirrel can be found here .
Waikato Blood Donor Centre - September, 1995 I attended the open day with the intention of getting a few photos of the rescue helicopter - but just as I started photographing the aircraft, it was called out. The first three images (below) show the aircraft on display outside its hangar on the Waikato Hospital grounds.
When the crew were notified, they asked the open day visitors to move back, and proceeded to change some of the equipment which had been on display in the helicopter. With this completed, the aircraft was then rolled back onto the pad.
After being pushed into position, the helicopter was connected to a power supply cart, and start-up commenced. While the aircraft was being prepared, the rest of the crew started to gather.
During this time, the watching crowd were moved back behind barriers. The aircraft then departed from the pad . . .
No, this isn't as ghoulish as it seems - while the aircraft was absent I took the opportunity to watch some of the displays - including this realistic rescue from a 'crashed car' simulating several badly injured crash victim.
When the Bell 222 returned I was too slow getting to the pad to get images of it touching down. The images (below) show the patient being removed from the aircraft and transferred to the casualty department. (I understand the patient was a motorcyclist who had come off his bike somewhere near Morrinsville).
More information on the Bell 222 can be found here .
Matthew Beaven Guest Gallery Some images of a variety of South Island based rescue helicopters can be found in the guest gallery here .
© 1997 Phillip Treweek, all rights reserved