Perth-based RAC Rescue helicopter service completed its 5,000th mission in mid-October after 13 years of providing aeromedical retrieval and search and rescue services in Western Australia’s south-west.
Operated on contract by CHC Helicopter (CHC), the Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ (DFES) RAC Rescue helicopter service commenced operations in Perth in 2003 with one Bell 412EP.
“It is a little awe inspiring to sit back and think about all the missions and work that has gone into this service over 13 years to achieve the 5,000th mission milestone,” said CHC pilot and and Jandakot base manager Michael Perren.
“It is even more gratifying to consider all the lives saved, reduced suffering for the patients transported, and people we’ve rescued over the years.”
Sponsored by the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) since its inception, the service responds to incidents involving farming accidents, marine and land search and rescues and time-critical hospital transfers.
However, the most common incident response was to motor vehicle accidents, which account for two thirds of the services’ callouts.
“This year, 63 per cent of fatal road crashes have sadly occurred on country roads, highlighting how important it is for country areas to be able to access high level medical care as quickly as possible,” DFES assistant commissioner Gary Gifford said.
“By transporting patients by air, the RAC Rescue saves precious time that could be the difference between life and death following an accident.”
On February 1, DFES launched a second rescue helicopter, another Bell 412 also operated by CHC, based at Bunbury Airport, 175km south of Perth, to service the growing population in the state’s south-west and Great Southern regions.
“With the addition of the Bunbury based helicopter we can now cover 95 per cent of the state’s population, which greatly increases our capacity to help people in need,” said Gifford.
“We have had several instances already where both helicopters were sent to incidents at the same time. Previously these cases would have had to be prioritised with the helicopter sent to one while it is likely a road ambulance would have responded to the other.”
In its first two months of operations, the Bunbury-based RAC Rescue helicopter responded to 52 incidents and spent more than 80 hours in the air.
Before the end of the year, the Bunbury service will move from its temporary facility into a new permanent base being constructed by DFES at the other end of the airfield.