Life of a Rescue Pilot

In Stu’s 29 years of experience as a pilot (19 of those working as a rescue pilot) means he has seen significant changes in the Rescue Helicopter Service. “Some of the more significant improvements have been the upgrades of medical gear carried in the helicopter, greater use of GPS (Global Positioning Systems) and GPS transmitting Emergency Locator Beacons; but the greatest improvement by far is the use of Night Vision Goggles, which have transformed our ability to respond to callouts at night.” Since the introduction of NVG’s in 2006, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter now completes over 30% of its missions at night. The Rescue Pilots and crew are on call 24/7, 365 days a year, “It is a big commitment for the pilots and crew, we sacrifice a lot of personal family time to ensure we are available to respond very quickly to callouts.” says Stu.
Stu can recall most of the rescue missions he has attended over the past 19 years; when asked what his most memorable mission has been to date, he finds it difficult to answer as “many jobs have their own unique thing that can make them particularly memorable; it can be good or tragic. Jobs that have different aspects to them (location, winching, weather, the needs of the people being rescued etc) tend to be the most memorable and these tend to be search and rescue  jobs.”
The Rescue Helicopter crew responds to missions ranging from search and rescue, motor vehicle accidents, and medical emergencies, to leisure accidents, sports accidents and special operations; working together closely as a team to ensure a high level of patient care, “At the end of the day there is the satisfaction of knowing you helped make a positive difference to someone who needed help,” says Stu, who feels fortunate he is able to combine his love of flying with the satisfaction of helping people in need. “Never knowing what will happen from day to day and hour to hour, we could be out to sea or in the mountains or attending an incident in the middle of the night. Sometimes in the most challenging conditions and sometimes flying over stunning NZ scenery on a beautiful calm day. It is a very rewarding and enjoyable career.”