Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter | A day in the life of the aircrew

Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter pilot Stefan Hildebrand and aircrew Matt Wenman.

 Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter pilot Stefan Hildebrand and aircrew Matt Wenman.

On flying days a pilot, aircrew and rescue swimmer arrive at the Busselton Margaret River Airport at 7am to prepare the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter before it takes off for duty.

The crew fly out on a two hour journey between 9am and 10am heading anywhere from Bunbury to Redgate, they return to base and refuel before heading out again for the afternoon.

With three sets of eyes in the sky, the crew monitor the surf conditions around the South West and look for sharks close to shore or people who might be caught in a rip.

Aircrew Matt Wenman said when the rescue swimmer boards the chopper, he is kitted out in a wetsuit and flotation devices in case he needs to be winched into the surf to rescue someone caught in a rip.

“If we get a call from the water police we can go and assist in a limited capacity, we can come in low then kick the swimmer out with a rescue tube, then we land on the beach and pick him up.,” Mr Wenman said.

Part of their job forms part of the state government’s shark mitigation program, when they spot a shark they record the size, how far away from shore it is and the direction it is travelling.

The crew contact a communications team in Perth, which sends out the information to agencies, which send out an alert to the public.

“If we spot a shark which is near the public we will come down low and sound the siren,” he said.

“There could be surfers and swimmers 300 metres up the beach, we will sit over the shark and sound the siren so people up and down the beach are aware.

“It might not be a threat but it is good for people in the water to look up and see us circling to let them know there is a shark.

“That is a decision people have to make, whether they want to get out of the water.

“We are there for a reason and the community love us down here, when you see something near the public and you sound a siren then move onto the next beach you get a lot of thumbs up and people waving at you.”

Mr Wenman has been in the aviation industry for 26 years working as aircrew, which he described as being like a mission control room in the sky.

“With three in the aircraft, it is like having a multi-skilled set, in the early days a pilot would make the decisions, now with three of us on board we all make that decision to do a job or not do a job.

“We have crew resource management which allows each person to speak their mind, which is good especially in an aviation environment.

“It is all well and good flying around when it is beautiful weather but when it turns a bit pear shaped when you are doing a search for missing people and the conditions are not that great it does get a bit tense in the aircraft.

“To be able to speak up is a good thing because all it takes is for one person to say they are not happy.”

Mr Wenman said only a couple of days ago it was really windy along the Capes and the crew were thankful they were in a helicopter rather than a plane.

“The fixed wings get hammered by the turbulence from the wind so they just rock and roll all the time, helicopters tend to cut the air,” he said.

“I would rather be in a helicopter, there are a lot of different external noises and vibrations, especially when you turn into wind but you get used to it.

“It is not as scary as people say, as long as you have a good pilot sitting up the front, life is good.”

In WA, the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service has performed over 480 missions, responded to 23 search and rescues and patrolled more than 100,000 kilometres of coastline last summer .

The helicopter has been operating from Fremantle since 2008 and Busselton since 2013.

Manned by paid and volunteer personnel, the highly-trained WLRHS crew patrol the coast from September to April each year; monitoring for rip currents and risks from marine life, as well as incidents on beaches and people in distress.

Westpac state general manager  Ken Luehman said the chopper and its crew played a crucial role in providing coastal safety and emergency responses for the WA community.

“Westpac is proud to support the vital community service provided by the WLRHS, which has been operating in the state since 2008 – with no one ever having to pay to be rescued,” he said.

“We can’t thank the crew enough for their unwavering commitment to helping those in the local community when they need it most.”

Surf Life Saving WA general manager Chris Peck said the role the service played in coastal safety in WA was vital.

“As the helicopter is able to cover large areas in a relatively short period of time, the crew’s patrols were particularly important given the vastness of our coastline and because many popular beaches in the South West cannot be serviced by on-beach patrol services at all times,” he said.

“We are extremely grateful for the support provided by Westpac and are excited to continue the partnership for a further five years.”.

Airbus Helicopters focuses on the wind turbine growth market

Wind energy

“Helicopters are an integral part of any logistics concept for offshore wind farms,” says Dennis Bernitz, Head of Western Europe Sales. “Our helicopters can complete missions for wind farms in a particularly quick, economical, safe and environmentally friendly manner. Helicopters can be used to deploy technicians or medical personnel in emergencies, even in rough seas, and can also transport operating personnel between the shore and the wind farm.” Helicopter transport means that personnel avoid problems with seasickness caused by travelling by sea in rough weather conditions. The probability of mistakes being made by seasick technicians is considerably higher than in the case of healthy technicians; in severe cases, the error rate climbs dramatically.

With turbine output rising, leading to a higher rate of electricity production, wind farm operators rely on an efficient, rapid-response logistics system, relying on high availability, to keep losses to a minimum should a malfunction occur. At the same time, wind farms are being built further and further from the shore. A helicopter can cover 40 nautical miles (approximately 74 km) in 20 minutes, meaning it can reach the site and return to shore faster than a transport vessel.

Airbus Helicopters has developed a logistics calculator for wind farm operators, which takes into account all relevant factors – weather, location and the number of turbines in the wind farm – to determine the most economical and environmentally friendly logistics solution which includes options on the mix of transport and special-purpose vessels.

Companies do not usually purchase the means of transport themselves, but lease the services from operators. Airbus Helicopters offers the H135, H145 and H175 rotorcraft for crew transport, maintenance and rescue missions. In future, the H160 is also expected to be available to this market. With their two engines and four-axis autopilot, these Airbus helicopters have the ability to hover in the air and safely and precisely winch down personnel or goods to exactly where they are needed.

About Airbus

Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2017 it generated revenues of € 59 billion restated for IFRS 15 and employed a workforce of around 129,000. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners from 100 to more than 600 seats. Airbus is also a European leader providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as one of the world’s leading space companies. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.

Airbus Helicopters Tiger to get a new set of claws

Airbus Helicopters Tiger to get a new set of claws

Marignane, OCCAR (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’Armement / Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation) has commissioned Airbus Helicopters, on behalf of the French, German and Spanish Armament agencies DGA, BAAINBw and DGAM, to perform de-risking studies aimed at providing the Tiger with next generation battlefield capabilities. Their main objective is to prepare the development and retrofit phases of the new avionics, mission, and weapon systems of the Tiger. Thales and MBDA will also take part in the studies.

“We are proud to be preparing the future of the Tiger as it represents a major program for the European Defense cooperation initiative” said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. “The de-risking studies will ensure that France, Germany, and Spain will be able to decide on implementing the additional operational capabilities for their Tiger helicopters.” he added.

178 Tigers have been delivered to France, Germany, Spain and Australia, and have accumulated over 110,000 flight hours to date. First deployed by the French Army in Afghanistan in 2009, the Tiger continues to demonstrate its essential role on theatres of operation as a highly versatile, stealthy, and maneuverable attack helicopter.

About Airbus

Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2017 it generated revenues of € 59 billion restated for IFRS 15 and employed a workforce of around 129,000. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners from 100 to more than 600 seats. Airbus is also a European leader providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as one of the world’s leading space companies. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.

Red Arrows Support Handover to UK’s HeliGroup of First ACH135 Helionix for VIP Charter

Red Arrows Support Handover to UK’s HeliGroup of First ACH135 Helionix for VIP Charter

Monaco, UK operator HeliGroup has taken delivery of the first ever ACH135 Helionix for VIP charter operations from Airbus Corporate Helicopters at the Monaco Yacht Club during the annual yacht show in the Principality.

The handover event was attended by representatives of global aviation and yachting industries and supported by the Royal Air Force Red Arrows, guests of honour following their air display at the Monaco Yacht Show.

Following in the footsteps of the UK Ministry of Defence, which took delivery of the first H135 Helionix in 2017, HeliGroup selected the aircraft in the lightweight, sports car-inspired ACH Line interior fit configured with the ACH135 five-seater business configuration. In this way, HeliGroup becomes the first VIP charter company worldwide to mark the introduction of the ACH135’s step change Helionix capability to private and business aviation.

Matthew Munson, Managing Director of HeliGroup Ltd, said, “We are delighted to be the first to introduce the advanced flight and safety benefits of the ACH135 Helionix to the VIP charter market, with the UK again leading the way in aviation. Our customers will benefit from the latest generation build standards and quality, complimented with a luxury interior making the ACH135 an ideal platform for a range of requirements.”

Frederic Lemos, Head of ACH, said, “Our customers can now benefit from the industryleading technology benefits Helionix brings on the ACH135, ACH145, ACH175 and soon to come ACH160. HeliGroup’s choice will ensure that their customers benefit from the ACH standards in quality and exclusivity while benefiting from the versatility and capability of a twin-engine helicopter which, nevertheless, can access to the most confined helicopter landing areas in both rural and urban spaces.”

The addition of the ACH135 Helionix alongside HeliGroup’s current AS355 NP Twin Squirrel, configured for passenger transport as well as utility operations, gives HeliGroup the flexibility to maximise its position in both the charter and utility missions markets.

About Airbus

Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2017 it generated revenues of € 59 billion restated for IFRS 15 and employed a workforce of around 129,000. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners from 100 to more than 600 seats. Airbus is also a European leader providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as one of the world’s leading space companies. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.