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New CareFlight chopper dedicated to long-serving pilot

Peter Spurgin spent almost 20 years as CareFlight Chief Pilot saving the lives of thousands of Queenslanders in distress and today CareFlight honoured him with the dedication and naming of its newest helicopter after him.

CareFlight Group’s new AgustaWestland 139 (AW139) helicopter was today officially dedicated and named after one of its longest serving pilots, Peter Spurgin at a special ceremony at CareFlight’s new Brisbane operational base.

“In honour of Peter’s service and commitment to the organisation, CareFlight’s new helicopter has been named and will be known as Peter “Spurg” Spurgin,” said CareFlight CEO Ashley van de Velde.

Mr Spurgin flew around 3500 missions throughout Queensland and northern New South Wales while working for CareFlight as Chief Pilot between 1986 and 2005 and rescued and retrieved thousands of injured, sick and distressed patients from bush tracks, paddocks, waterways and roadsides around the vast state.

The former RAAF combat instructor and test pilot was at the controls when the service operated a single engine Squirrel aircraft and current CEO Ashley van de Velde was Chief Crewman.

Mr Spurgin flew the line as Chief Pilot for 19 years and was involved in numerous difficult missions in challenging conditions – but was always meticulous in his dedication to aircraft safety.

He introduced fixed wing operations into CareFlight Queensland and was instrumental in improving the way crew operated in the aircraft, especially the integration of co-pilots.

“Spurg” hung up his flying helmet in 2005 and became CareFlight’s Integrated Risk Manager. He later served as the company’s Safety and Quality Assurance Manager from 2009 to 2014 where he maintained his unequivocal and unshakeable commitment to this vital area of operations.

He retired in 2014 but “Spurg’s” impressive 28-year tenure at CareFlight continues to create benchmark safety regulations that are used throughout the fleet today.

“Spurg” was acknowledged in the 2006 Queens Birthday Honours with an OAM – a then rare honour for a helicopter rescue pilot – for service to the community as a rescue and medical retrieval pilot.

“Peter is a wonderful ambassador to CareFlight and we’ve been honoured to have him as part of our story and history,” Mr van de Velde said.

“Peter is one of the most humble and modest people you would ever have the pleasure of meeting. He has been an extraordinary pilot and rescuer – and has always shown meticulous attention to detail.

“He was always the first person to put up his hand to help his fellow Australians – and plenty of overseas tourists as well – no matter what the conditions or logistical challenges might have been.”

Mr Spurgin said it was humbling to be recognised in such a significant way by an organisation to which he had dedicated much of his life.
“I can’t think of a greater honour than to have my name etched on one of CareFlight’s iconic helicopters,” he said.

The “Peter ‘Spurg’ Spurgin” helicopter became operational in November 2015 and has since transported more than 100 patients across Queensland.

The arrival of the new helicopter is the first phase of CareFlight Group’s long-awaited fleet renewal program, which commenced last year with the purchase of two new AgustaWestland 139 (AW139) helicopters. The second AW139 helicopter became operational in January out of CareFlight’s Brisbane base, to meet growing demand.

“This transition to the new aircraft will ensure our fleet is equipped with an aviation capability that is more advanced and well positioned for decades of service to the community,” Mr van de Velde said.

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