Australia's Surf Life Saving Queensland's rescue service has been bolstered by the addition of a new Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter, Lifesaver 46, which will start patrolling in time for the school holidays.
The new helicopter was unveiled at the Carrara hangar and replaces the B0105 that has been servicing South East Queensland since 2012. Lifesaver 46, an Airbus EC135P2+ is built to contemporary engineering and safety standards with all-weather capability (IFR), autopilot and a night vision goggle (NVG) compatible cockpit.
The two-year search for the new aircraft had Surf Life Saving Queensland speaking with companies from all across the globe, with more than 30 aircraft considered.
Ultimately Lifesaver 46 was procured in California and was freighted by ship to Brisbane in August, 2020 before upgrades to its radio systems and fitment of a searchlight for night operations. In January 2021 it was painted in the iconic Surf Life Saving Queensland red and yellow colours, with two new engines installed.
Surf Life Saving Queensland CEO Dave Whimpey says unveiling the new aircraft is a proud moment for the organisation. “In December, 2021 our Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service will celebrate keeping beachgoers safe for 45 years,” he states. “Our pilots and volunteer crew have saved the lives of more than 850 people and performed in excess of 10,000 missions. It is wonderful to be here today to see the service expand its capabilities.”
Lifesaver 46, an EC135P2+, joins SLSQ's existing Lifesaver 45, also an EC135. Chief pilot Paul Gibson says the upgrade of aircraft is important for the future of the service. “The addition of a second EC135 allows the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service (WLRHS) economies of scale by having a common fleet type,” he explains. “This permeates logistics, maintenance and spare parts but most importantly simplifies the training effort in keeping pilots and crew proficient in a single aircraft type. We look forward to surveilling south east Queensland beaches over the school holidays.”
Westpac, the Australian bank and financial services that has proudly sponsored the service since its inception in 1976 joined Surf Life Saving Queensland at the Carrara hangar for the unveiling.
“Last year alone the WLRHS conducted 88 missions, patrolled more than 13,000 beaches and spotted 23,000 rips, which is a testament to the crew's unwavering dedication to helping to save lives,” Westpac regional general manager Brett English says. “For 45 years we have seen the critical role the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service plays for the community of Queensland. It is a partnership that we know means a lot to our customers; to support the crew and volunteers who dedicate their lives to helping others and ensure our community can visit the beach safely. We hope when you see the choppers in the sky you will know you have our support and respect for all that you do in keeping the Queensland coast safe.”