LifeFlight farewells board members and introduces newest AW139

LifeFlight has farewelled two valued board members at an honorary event at the Sunshine Coast helicopter hangar last night and has named its newest AW139 helicopter after one of them.

LifeFlight Deputy Chairman and Director Don Moffatt and Board Member Bill Freeman have supported LifeFlight, and its predecessor CareFlight, for 40 years collectively, both contributing greatly to the development and lifesaving work of the charity organisation.

Both also played pivotal roles in the original Sunshine Coast Helicopter Rescue Service.

The board members’ farewell at a private function at the Maroochydore hangar last night coincided with an exciting milestone for the Sunshine Coast base, which they have each helped to make possible.

LifeFlight’s new Augusta Westland AW139 helicopter will become operational next week and will bear Don Moffatt’s name on the side of the aircraft.

The chopper (which was manufactured in Italy) was assembled by LifeFlight’s engineering team in Brisbane and the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) fitout was completed last year by Caloundra company HeliMods. It is the third AW139 introduced into LifeFlight’s fleet in the past year as part of its fleet renewal strategy. 

This new addition will allow for even more lifesaving missions in the Sunshine Coast region and surrounds, with advanced features including the ability to fly up to 270 kph, airlift up to 2,200 kg and allow critical care rescue crews to perform winch missions.

LifeFlight Chief Pilot Paul Forcier said the AW139 is a market-leading twin-turbine helicopter with performance capabilities that suit the demanding and dynamic aero-medical environments.  

“The helicopter is a great upgrade for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue with greater range, higher speed and a state-of-the-art avionics system,” Mr Forcier said.  

“The rear cabin allows a greater working space for medical crews and can comfortably transfer two seated passengers and two patient stretchers, in addition to the four-person crew.” 

Don Moffatt was this year appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Australia Day honours list, for his significant contributions to helicopter rescue services in Queensland and the horse racing industry.

Over his years of service, he has made significant contributions to the aero-medical industry and its lifesaving organisation, LifeFlight, the predecessor company CareFlight as well as with the Sunshine Coast Rescue Helicopter Service since 1994 (which merged with LifeFlight in 2013).

“Don has devoted much of his life to providing his experience, expertise and leadership to the boards of lifesaving aero-medical services and this award is due recognition for the work that he has done,” LifeFlight Chairman Rob Borbidge said.

“Aero-medical services like LifeFlight have a proud record of saving lives and last year we performed a record number of missions, both fixed and rotary wing,” said Mr Borbidge.

Mr Moffatt has helped to make continuous upgrades and improvements to the Sunshine Coast service, enabling the tasking of thousands of rescue missions across Queensland.
 
“LifeFlight has created a new dimension to helicopter rescue, introducing more powerful aircraft with even greater capabilities,” said Mr Moffatt.

“The aero-medical teams do such a fantastic job providing patients with care that is close to major hospital standard, and masterfully take on all weather conditions and difficult Queensland terrains to safely get to every mission.”

Mr Moffatt is a former Australian Army helicopter pilot and successful Sunshine Coast property developer, and has served for 16 years on the Sunshine Coast Turf Club Committee.  

Bill Freeman is a local Sunshine Coast businessman and long-time supporter of LifeFlight.

For over 40 years, Mr Freeman has been involved with developing numerous community and sporting groups on the Sunshine Coast, including active involvement with the Maroochydore-Coolum Swans rugby league club, and surf lifesaving.

He worked as a successful land surveyor, developing over 1,000 homes along the Sunshine Coast canal waterways, mainly at Mooloolaba, Maroochydore and Noosa.

In 2000, Mr Freeman was hand-picked to join the board of the then Sunshine Coast Helicopter Rescue Service.

He served under a number of different Chairmen, including Don Moffatt, until the service merged with CareFlight in 2013.  Mr Freeman was appointed to the then CareFlight board following the merger.

“I’ve really enjoyed the companionship – the different array of people who have come into my life through my involvement with the helicopter rescue service,” said Mr Freeman.

“Many of the patients who we’ve rescued have sent letters, or video messages, or have come and thanked us personally – you hear from lots of different people, including adults, children and seniors.  They’re always so grateful.”

Both board members have seen diverse changes within the aero-medical industry over the span of their impressive careers and feel fortunate to have been influencers in LifeFlight’s growth and development.

“I think the world of the service,” said Mr Moffatt.

“It’s particularly heartening to me that the helicopters service remote and regional people of Queensland. Without it, they would have very little help from anywhere else.