Squirrel on board to cover service

KIRSTY MCMURRAY
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013

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The Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter has had its "busiest summer ever" over the last two months.

Mission logs on its website show a total of 33 flights were made during December and January, 10 of which were hospital transfers.

Motor vehicle accidents, medical emergencies and recreational adventures gone wrong were the other situations attended by the chopper.

Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust chairman Bryce Barnett said the service had been incredibly busy.

"It's probably the busiest summer ever. There's been a lot of work on the mountain and in the back country."

Figures released to the Taranaki Daily News show that of the 86 rescue missions flown last year, most were to the more remote areas of the region.

South Taranaki took the top spot, having been the location of 26 per cent of the total rescues, followed by North Taranaki on 21 per cent, Mt Taranaki on 17 per cent, Central Taranaki with 15 per cent and Eastern Taranaki with 14.

Rescues in New Plymouth made up 5 per cent of the total and the remaining 2 per cent were on the coast.

Mr Barnett said the number of missions in outlying areas highlighted how important the service is to the region.

But for up to two weeks next month, the trust's Augusta Westland A109E chopper will be out of action while it undergoes routine maintenance in Auckland. "It's got to be serviced after every 200 hours of flying."

Mr Barnett said the trust was renting one of Taranaki's old rescue helicopters from E-Works in Auckland to use while the Augusta was in the shed.

"Part of having a sustainable helicopter service is the business side of things, but part of it is making sure there is always a rescue helicopter in Taranaki."

He said the twin engine Squirrel fill-in helicopter was up to scratch to deal with rescues and staff were being trained up to use it.

"It's good because we've still got some of the equipment in storage here."

He said the old helicopter had been repainted and was now grey with the words "In Flight" painted on it.

The Squirrel will be acting as the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter for up to two weeks from February 4.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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