In-house maintenance pays off for rescue service
The Northland Rescue Helicopter (NRH) has made significant savings since the move 18 months ago to undertake maintenance of its aircraft in-house.
It is the only dedicated rescue helicopter trust in New Zealand with the capability to carry out the highly-specialised maintenance work required following Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval in 2015.
Chief Executive Pete Turnbull says it is difficult to calculate exactly how much NRH saves in maintenance each year due to factors such as variance in the US exchange rate (where the majority of parts are purchased), unscheduled maintenance, and year-on-year increases in rescues which means more maintenance is needed.
However, he says, since the CAA certification, NRH has saved approximately 20 percent on the cost of purchasing parts.
“This provides significant savings when you consider in the last financial year expenditure on maintenance totalled NZ $1.6 million. Doing it ourselves also means there has been considerable savings on labour costs.”
Mr Turnbull says the huge financial saving is pleasing for the Northland Emergency Services Trust which operates the NRH.
“As a charity we not only have a responsibility to the community to use our funding wisely, but also to cut unnecessary costs where possible. Being able to do our maintenance work in-house means substantial savings are made by reducing flights to Ardmore in Auckland to get the work done.
“It also means we are able to get the aircraft back in service quicker without the excess travel time, which results in an even more reliable and top quality service for the Northland community.”
Mr Turnbull says with the NRH maintenance schedule in full swing its three Sikorsky S-76 helicopters have less downtime making the operation more efficient.
“Demand on our service, which includes everything from patient transfers through to long-range at-sea rescues, is increasing at a rate of ten percent per annum. This makes it even more essential that all the helicopters are used to capacity.”
He says this annual growth in demand for the service also makes it important for NRH to continue to evolve and increase its capability.
Maintenance that has been carried out to date is day-to-day routine right through to engine and gearbox changes as the schedule requires.
The maintenance programme means the trust has also been able to promote aeronautical engineering as a career in Northland and employed three locals who would have otherwise had to travel to find work in the sector.
Northland Rescue Helicopter and Northland Aviation are the only two facilities in Northland that provide maintenance work.
EFFICIENT: In-house maintenance means less down time for Northlands three Sikorsky helicopters.