Aircrew at Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter knew they’d had a busy Christmas/New Year period, but until today were unaware they had officially experienced their busiest January ever.

Figures just released show Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter flew 44 missions in January – the busiest January ever, and the second busiest month on record. The only busier month recorded was May 1988 when the region was hit by two floods.

Those 44 missions were made up of 26 ‘Primary’ missions, 16 ‘Secondary’ missions (inter-hospital transfers) and two ‘SAR’ (search and rescue) missions.

In addition to the 44 missions flown, an additional 10 flights were conducted for pilot, crew and medical staff training.

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter chief pilot Lynton Beggs said the professionalism of the pilots, crew and medical staff enabled the high number of rescues to be carried out.
“Although our crews have had an extremely busy January, they are trained to handle it; regardless of whatever they encounter,” Mr Beggs said.

“January was not only busy, it involved some very high-profile rescues including the unfortunate double-drowning at Ballina and a helicopter crash on top of Mount Barney.”

Mr Beggs said that saving lives was an expensive business.

“Obviously, the more rescues we do, the more it costs to run this service. At an average cost of $5000 per mission, it cost about $220,000 to do the 44 January missions,” Mr Beggs said.

“But I think emergency services, and the community in general, realise the rescue helicopter is now an essential part of any rescue and that’s why we’ve come to be relied on so heavily.”

PICTURE: Chief pilot Lynton Beggs (at front) with the pilots and crew of Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter (Credit: ADAM HOURIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY).