03012015 News Photo: Alden Williams/Fairfax NZ Gulfstream V Jet parked at Nelson Airport. Owned by K&D Aviation.

Rescue chopper adapting to challenge

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Lockdowns and Covid-19 has meant that the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust is down nearly $150,000.

But while fundraising opportunities may have dried up this year, rescue missions have not.

To the end of August this year, the trust has flown 327 missions. On average, the trust flies over 500 missions every year.

This year, the helicopter has averaged 10 missions per week, with an average cost of $3,500 per mission. As of September, the crew has played a critical role in saving 326 lives.

The charitable trust receives government funding, but only enough to cover around 40 per cent of their annual operational costs.

NMRHT general manager Paula Muddle says that Covid-19 has meant that a lot of their fundraising opportunities disappeared this year.

“We just couldn’t do events.”

Now, local banking institution NBS are kicking off the Rescue Helicopter Appeal this October.

The month-long appeal aims to give a significant boost to the the Trust’s funding and shine a light on the lifesaving work that the Rescue Helicopter Trust does.

NMRHT chief crewman Paul (Ernie) Bryant says ensuring the crew is safe is extremely important.

“It’s not a job for everyone, hanging out with a winch 150 feet above ground,” he says.

“We can be called to help anywhere, ending up in all sorts of environments, day and night. Safety gear for pilots and crew, including fire retardant clothing, all-terrain boots, flight suits, personal locator beacons, life vests and night vision goggles adds up to around $35,000 for each team member.”

Ensuring that the crew are trained and meet regulatory requirements costs approximately $120,000 a year, according to the trust.

Intensive care paramedic Prue Young says the while the service needs a lot of funding, it is essential.

“We always need more equipment and ongoing training if we are to do the best job we can for people. Funding allows us to be at peak condition, highly trained, with the right equipment ready to go when the call comes, and it will come.”

NBS CEO Tony Cadigan says the entire NBS team feels strongly about keeping the rescue helicopter team safe.

“We’re now a major sponsor of the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust and proud to have the NBS brand on the nose of the chopper,” Tony says.

“We regularly hear the stories from the crew and are extremely impressed at their expertise and commitment to the job, regardless of the situation. It is not a job for the faint-hearted, they are amazing.”