February guest speaker Steve Couchman from Northland Emergency Services Trust (NEST), the Whangarei based rescue helicopter service, spoke of the many and varied missions he has been on in his career as a helicopter pilot.
Steve has worked on oil rigs in Australia, and in the Solomon Islands where he was part of the support service to New Zealand and Australian armies and police force in a peacekeeping mission. He has also worked for the Hawkes Bay Rescue Trust.
NEST operates three helicopters which are all the same. They are an emergency ambulance service and sometimes have to land on roads, beaches, farms, forestry, or make sea rescues.
Two of the helicopters have winches which have 240 feet of cable. They usually use about 100 feet and can lift two people at once.
The use of night vision goggles has improved the safety aspect of night work.
The trust has engineers on base for maintenance and repairs and Steve acknowledged the great assistance that the Fire Service gives in many rescue missions.
They also have a simulator – an actual helicopter – which is used for training purposes, regularly updating their skills through training exercises.
NEST has an operating budget of $4.8 million and operates 24 hours a day with an hourly running cost of $6000. Donations are always accepted and they run open days to advise the public of the service they provide. Groups are welcome to visit.
Steve obviously enjoys his work and wouldn’t swap the splendid views he gets from ‘the office’ every day.
The next club meeting and AGM is March 16, including a picnic which will be held at Riverside Holiday Park, 12 noon. A major part of business to be decided is the need for the club to have a name change. But more on that next month.
n For more club info please contact Gaylene Lawrence 431 5617.