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Hawke’s Bay Rescue Helicopter Trust

The Hawke’s Bay Rescue Helicopter Trust is a registered charity, established to provide a dedicated Rescue Helicopter service to the Hawke’s Bay.  Each year their crew assists in over 300 missions within the region, with over 80% of these missions providing urgent medical assistance at accident scenes or inter-hospital transfers for the critically ill. We are a proud sponsor of such a vital part of our community in order to support their aim to keep this essential service free and available 24/7 to everyone in our community.

In the 1960’s, local helicopters that were used for agricultural work (primarily spraying of crops) in Hawke’s Bay would be called in to help when helicopter retrieval and transport was required for patients. Spraying gear would be taken out of the helicopter and replaced with a stretcher for the patient. The helicopter would normally take the patient to a waiting ambulance before being transported to hospital by road. In Hawke’s Bay, the local agricultural helicopters would attend around 20-30 rescues each year.

The Hawke’s Bay Helicopter Rescue Trust was established in 1984 by a group of community-minded individuals, set up by Chief Inspector Paul Wiseman. The group identified the need for a dedicated retrieval and transportation system for critically ill patients in the Hawke’s Bay Region, with Dr Bennet and Dr Ward from Hastings Hospital particularly committed to the ‘golden hour’ theory of getting severely injured people to a medical facility within 60 minutes for the best chance of survival.

In 1985 a CAA approved helicopter pad was completed at the Hastings Hospital (now named the Hawke’s Bay Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital). A Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, owned by Wanganui Aero Works, was used for the rescues and in 1989 the machine was sold to Mike Groome of Te Onepu Helicopters and continued doing part time rescue work. In 1991, the Trust came to a ‘cross roads’ when Te Onepu Helicopters sold the Bell Jet Ranger, and the Trust had to decide whether to discontinue it’s service, or set up a new dedicated service. Luckily, key people within the community, and representatives at the Trust and the hospital recognised the value of the service to the region, and worked together to set up the service that still operates today.

The first helicopter hangar was built at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Hospital seven years later and in 2001 a larger facility was established in the hospital grounds.  The hangers were built with generous support from Hawke’s Bay businesses and the community. In 2009, the Trust moved from a single engine Squirrel to a twin engine BK117 rescue helicopter option. The main reasons for the change were to comply with Civil Aviation (CAA) rules on flying over built up areas, greater access to patients in flight, and the ability to carry additional personnel on missions; greater weight and performance. The BK117 has enabled the Trust to future proof an essential service for the Hawke’s Bay region. In late 2018, we moved to a modern BK-117D2. This was in response to ACC and Ministry of Health’s plan for a modernization of the Rescue Helicopter Service nationwide. This modern helicopter was extensively refurbished with all of the very latest safety equipment and navigational equipment.

The Hawke’s Bay Rescue Helicopter Trust continues to save lives and expand its capabilities, thanks to the support and contributions made by individuals, groups, businesses, and sponsors within the Hawke’s Bay community. It’s only with this support that the Rescue Helicopter is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and completely free of charge to everyone who needs help. Find out how you can support the Rescue Helicopter by visiting their website: https://www.hbrescuehelicopter.org.nz/get-involved/