Toll Helicopters has commenced aeromedical operations to provide helicopter rescue and retrieval services in partnership with New South Wales (NSW) Ambulance across the southern half of the state.
Officially launched as the Toll NSW Ambulance Rescue Helicopter by NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner at Bankstown Airport on Friday, the service will use eight brand new Leonardo AW139s across four bases in what has been demarcated as the Southern Zone, taking over from the incumbent operator CHC Helicopters in Sydney, Wollongong, Orange and Canberra.
The gradual establishment of the Toll NSW Ambulance Rescue Helicopter is part of the NSW government’s new $151.2 million state-wide helicopter retrieval network, developed under its Reform Plan for Aeromedical (Rotary Wing) Retrieval Services in NSW, which sees the state divided into the Northern Zone and Southern Zone.
Toll began its contract on January 10, three days prior to Friday’s official launch, with two AW139s to service the greater Sydney region. CHC was continuing to provide service coverage in Wollongong, Orange and Canberra for the time being.
Toll’s first mission came within hours of the new contract starting with “Rescue 207”, VH-TJJ, tasked to rescue a male bushwalker with a lower leg injury from Hatches Hollows in the Kanangra-Boyd National Park, 130km southwest of Sydney.
The crew of Rescue 207 winched the 58-year-old male up into the helicopter before transferring him in a stable condition to Liverpool Hospital, southwest of Sydney, for further treatment.
“The communities of NSW and ACT can be assured that they have the safest and most capable aviation operation supporting their ambulance care,” said Toll Helicopters general manager Mark Delany.
“We have extensive experience in helicopter services, and our pilots and aircrew are some of the most highly experienced and trained aviation professionals in the country.”
The Toll NSW Ambulance Rescue Helicopter will begin rescue and retrieval operations in Wollongong on March 1 from a brand new base currently under construction at the Albion Park Regional Airport, south of Wollongong.
On April 3, the service will start flying from the ACT, taking over the coverage currently being provided by the Snowy Hydro-sponsored SouthCare rescue helicopter service from its base at Hume, southeast of Canberra.
A week later, on April 10, Toll will begin transporting sick and injured new born babies, infants and children for the Newborn and paediatric Emergency Transport Service (NETS), taking over from CareFlight NSW, which was currently providing the service from a temporary base at Bankstown Airport.
The final component of the contract will start on May 14, when the Toll NSW Ambulance Rescue Helicopter will begin operating from its base at Orange Airport, in central NSW.
“With a team of a NSW Ambulance doctor and paramedic, or a doctor and nurse, available for every flight, the new highly sophisticated fleet of AW139 helicopters will ensure we are even better equipped to care for communities of NSW now and into the future,” said NSW Ambulance chief executive Commissioner Dominic Morgan.
“Our aeromedical doctors and paramedics provide an exemplary service to patients in all corners of the state, completing around 3,000 patient missions each year. I am confident that this partnership will enable our highly-qualified NSW Ambulance helicopter doctors and paramedics to continue to deliver exceptional out-of-hospital critical care to patients across the state.”
Though imminent, a naming rights sponsor has yet to be secured for the Southern Zone operation. Until a sponsorship arrangement is determined, the AW139s have been painted in an interim colour scheme featuring the NSW Ambulance roundel and Toll logo on a white background, compared with the red and white seen on helicopters under the previous contract. The colour scheme was expected to change with the announcement of a naming rights sponsor.
The Northern Zone, which includes the Newcastle, Tamworth and Lismore bases, will be operated by the Westpac-sponsored Northern NSW Helicopter Rescue Service using four new AW139s and is due to begin its contract from Belmont Airport on Lake Macquarie, south of Newcastle, on March 1.
The service will then commence operations from a new base at Lismore Airport on April 1 and Tamworth on May 1.
(The Toll NSW Ambulance Rescue Helicopter will be featured in the March edition of Australian Aviation.)