New RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter lands in North-West

LifeFlight’s upgraded Mount Isa-based helicopter touched down in the North-West earlier than expected, following a 1,600 kilometre journey from its previous base at Bundaberg.

The aircraft leaving the Bundaberg Hangar on Tuesday morning.

The aircraft left Bundaberg on Tuesday morning, before flying seven hours to Longreach, where the crew rested overnight. They then flew the final three-hour leg to Mount Isa this morning, where they were greeted by local school children from St Kieran’s Catholic Primary School and Spinifex Junior Campus, when the chopper landed at Kruttschnitt Oval.


The new helicopter landing on Kruttschnitt Oval.

The arrival of the much anticipated twin-engine BK117 means the Mount Isa crew will now have greater capability to save lives and serve the community. The new helicopter offers a better medical platform, improving speed and range, and allowing for two patients to be transported in most situations (compared to one currently).

It will also be Night Vision Goggle (NVG) capable, which will enhance the crew’s night flying capability and allow them to land in almost any location within a 300km radius.

In another major improvement, the aircraft will have winch equipment on board, which will enable the crew to winch patients where the helicopter is unable to land due to terrain or environmental conditions.

LifeFlight Deputy Chairman Jim Elder said the organisation was proud to provide an improved level of care to the North-West community.

“Following the Palaszczuk Government’s announcement last month of funding for our Mount Isa base of $2.4 million for 2017-18, which was very welcome by LifeFlight, we said we would upgrade the LifeFlight service to the North-West and we have delivered the helicopter earlier than we had expected,” said Mr Elder.

“We would expect the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter to more than double its flying hours and the tasking for lifesaving missions in 2017-18 to 100-150 hours.

“We also promised the Mayors of the North-West that the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter would have a greater community presence and that will be the case through more missions and training flights which will allow us to get out a lot more to areas like Richmond, Cloncurry, McKinlay and Hughenden.

“Although we have flown, and will continue to fly anywhere, anytime in the North-West where we need to save lives.”

Mr Elder said the community support in the region was an important factor in LifeFlight’s decision to upgrade the Mount Isa helicopter with local supporters such as Glencore leading the way this year with the renewal of a two-year $300,000 sponsorship.

Local residents will be seeing more of the blue and yellow helicopter in the coming weeks, as the crew begins training in the upgraded aircraft.

During this cross-over period LifeFlight will station extra staff at Mount Isa, keeping the current helicopter in the air and saving lives. It’s anticipated the Mount Isa crew will be fully operational in the upgraded aircraft by mid-August.

LifeFlight Chief Operating Officer Brian Guthrie said the aircraft’s arrival was part of LifeFlight’s most significant fleet movement in recent years.

“We replaced the BK117 in Bundaberg which enabled us to move that helicopter up to Mount Isa and provide a better aircraft and a better lifesaving service to the region,” Mr Guthrie said.

“For the next month, there will be a lot of training for the flight and medical crew to ensure they become totally familiar with the new aircraft, new equipment and the increased day and night capability.”

The arrival of the new helicopter was welcomed by Hon Tony McGrady AM, Chairman of the Aeromedical Joint Operations Oversight Committee (AJOOC). The committee has already improved aeromedical retrieval in the region through a joint operations model between LifeFlight and the Royal Flying Doctor Service, ensuring the most appropriate aircraft is used in each retrieval.

“This is fantastic news for the North-West and will ensure that we have a better service for our region which effectively will mean better health outcomes for patients and more lives saved,” said Mr McGrady.

“We know that the best way to provide an aeromedical health service for the region and to get the best patient outcomes is to have the best air asset assigned to the airlift.

“Sometimes that will be the RFDS fixed wing aircraft and other times that will be the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter which now has greater range and greater capacity to save lives.”

LifeFlight has been operating from Mount Isa since merging with NQ Rescue in July 2015. This year marks 10 years since the introduction of a rescue helicopter service to the region.

Last financial year the Mount Isa-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter recorded a 32% increase in missions, performing 29 rescues throughout the region. Almost half of those were primary missions, where the helicopter was required to land at the scene of an incident.

The most common types of incident in the North-West in 2016-17 were animal bites and attacks, motorcycle and motor vehicle accidents and cardiac conditions.

LifeFlight is a community-based charity that relies on donations from the public and community support to the LifeFlight Foundation.

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