In July, members of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew participated in a large-scale avalanche response exercise near Mt Cheeseman Ski Area. Crew Chief, Rick Knight, comments “It is a multi-agency exercise directed at following the Canterbury Avalanche Response Plan, which will see Police, St John, ski industry personnel, multiple Land Search and Rescue teams, Alpine Cliff Rescue teams, and local helicopter operators, including the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, working together to test the effectiveness of the plan in a simulated avalanche situation with multiple casualties. It is particularly important to have this type of coordinated emergency response in our region.”
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew had a very active role in the avalanche simulation, conducting stretcher winches off the mountain and triaging the ‘patients’ at the site. “We are also trained in Mountain and Bush Survival skills every 2 years; in an actual avalanche emergency we are trained to locate the patients with a transmitter, dig them out and administer emergency care,” says Mike McLintock, ICP and Crewman of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and Crew Training Manager.
The Rescue Helicopter crew are due to complete their next Mountain and Bush Survival training module at Temple Basin, Mike says, “The two day Mountain and Bush Survival training course is a tough one. We spend two nights on a mountain learning the necessary skills to look after ourselves and others in an extreme environment. One of the nights we spend in a snow cave we dig ourselves. It’s not the most comfortable sleep!”
Every year each member of the crew is required complete an intensive training schedule; helicopter underwater escape training (HUET), night vision goggle training, winching, and mountain/bush survival are just some of the areas they are skilled in. Our pilots also complete these extensive training modules at a cost of $186,000 each year. You can read about our Rescue Pilots and training requirements in the latest campaign here.
We also spoke to Stu Farquahr, Rescue Pilot of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, about his experience over 19 years of service, you can read about Stu here.