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Iconic CareFlight helicopter retires after two decades of service

It served thousands of Queenslander’s for two decades but this week, RACQ CareFlight Rescue’s Bell 412 XCF “Foxtrot” helicopter made its final flight before its well-earned retirement from the rescue fleet.

An icon of the Queensland skies, the chopper joined CareFlight’s operational fleet in 1995 and was the service’s first twin-engine helicopter.

Since then, Foxtrot completed 10,768 flight hours saving the lives of people across every corner of southern Queensland.

“This particular aircraft has rescued more patients than any other helicopter in CareFlight’s fleet,” CareFlight CEO Ashley van de Velde said.

“Manufactured in June 1981, it’s actually the oldest operational helicopter in Australia; its serial number is 31.

“Today’s retirement ceremony at our Archerfield Maintenance Facility was a bittersweet moment for the pilots, crewmen and thousands of patients who came to know Foxtrot as a reliable mainstay of the rescue service.”

Foxtrot’s retirement is part of CareFlight Group’s fleet renewal program, which commenced this year with the purchase of two new AgustaWestland 139 (AW139) helicopters.

It’s the first time in CareFlight’s history that new rather than repurposed aircraft have been purchased, made possible by government funding and ongoing community support.

"The retirement of Foxtrot is the end of an era in our service’s history, but also marks an important milestone in our long-awaited fleet renewal program,” Mr van de Velde said.

“This transition will ensure our fleet is equipped with an aviation capability that is more advanced and well positioned for decades of service to the community.

“These latest-technology AW139 aircraft will revolutionise the way we save lives,” he said.

The first of the service’s new AW139s became operational out of CareFlight’s Brisbane Airport base in mid-November and has airlifted 17 patients in just two weeks.

The second new aircraft arrived in Australia last week and is currently undergoing a medical fit-out to prepare it for the lifesaving, air-medical environment.