HAI International Tuesday: LifeFlight Australia Ltd

Paul Smith Top Story

Every year, the iconic blue-and-yellow helicopters and air ambulance jets of LifeFlight Australia bring emergency lifesaving medical treatment to seriously ill and injured patients in the organization’s home state of Queensland, across Australia, and throughout the world.

LifeFlight is a world leader in aeromedical care and Australia’s most diversified air ambulance service, operating both a fixed- and rotary-wing fleet. Each day, RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter crews treat an average of five seriously ill and/or critically injured patients.

Rotary crews are typically made up of a pilot, air crew officer, and an intensive-care flight paramedic or nurse. On top of that, LifeFlight Australia critical-care doctors work onboard helicopters based in seven aeromedical bases across Queensland.

The RACQ LifeFlight Rescue fleet operates eight helicopters out of the Mount Isa, Bundaberg, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, and Brisbane bases, performing critical missions in Queensland’s rural and remote communities. On standby round-the-clock, the rescue helicopters can be in the air within minutes of being tasked for a mission.

LifeFlight has made a difference in the lives of thousands of people. Between the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue community helicopters and air ambulance jets, crews have flown more than 55,000 critical rescue missions in 40 years. In an environment where access to medical care can take hours by road, aeromedical intervention can often mean the difference between life and death.

Thirty percent of this community rescue service is funded and supported by the LifeFlight Foundation, through a range of diverse fundraising programs.

LifeFlight also services a commercial contract, providing aeromedical helicopter services to a consortium of oil and gas companies. This contract benefits local communities by providing workers, their families, and local residents with emergency care every day of the year.

History

Fueled by the desire of current CEO Ashley van de Velde and other dedicated visionaries, the Gold Coast Helicopter Rescue Service was established in 1981 to bring rapid-rescue response to Australia’s beaches and search-and-rescue capabilities to the south Queensland hinterland.

In 1992, the organization was renamed CareFlight, and the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) partnered with the group the following year, becoming a key naming rights sponsor. Since then, RACQ has donated vital funds to help keep the service airborne.

Through the decades, the aeromedical service expanded to include more Queensland communities and parts of northern New South Wales. In July 2013, the decision was made to merge CareFlight (operating out of the Gold Coast and Darling Downs) and the Sunshine Coast Helicopter Rescue Service (with bases on the Sunshine Coast and in Bundaberg), which had been saving lives since 1979.

Three short years later, in 2016, the aeromedical rescue organization was renamed LifeFlight Australia, but that’s where the change ended: crews have remained committed to saving lives.

LifeFlight Training Academy

At the state-of-the-art LifeFlight Training Academy, private, industry, and government clients can train in a practical environment with highly qualified instructors and a virtual-reality flight simulator. As a CASA-approved registered training organization (RTO No: 2762), LifeFlight’s nationally accredited courses can provide training specifically tailored to an organization’s needs, either on or off campus.

The LifeFlight Training Academy provides pilots with training for type ratings for AW139 and Bell 412 aircraft, VFR/IFR flight operations, and the use of night-vision devices. The academy also offers flight simulation training. Its Thales Level D simulator provides trainees with a realistic cockpit environment and controls, augmented by motion, visual, and aural effects.

For aircrews, LifeFlight provides the following types of training:

  • Aircrew and rescue aircrew operations
  • Helicopter underwater escape training (HUET)
  • Emergency breathing system (EBS)
  • Helicopter landing site officer
  • Aircraft refueling
  • Aviation fuel quality control.

The LifeFlight Training Academy is located at Brisbane Airport (YBBN) and is within 15 minutes of the city’s central business district. As part of its service, LifeFlight can provide out-of-state or international visitors with accommodation options and transport recommendations.

LifeFlight Coordination Center

LifeFlight’s aeromedical operations are organized through the LifeFlight Coordination Center, providing a single point of contact for the activation and tasking of LifeFlight’s entire rotary- and fixed-wing fleet. The LifeFlight Coordination Center ensures patients receive the most timely and effective care possible, no matter their location.

The logistical and operational hub is staffed 24/7 by a team of experienced aviation operations coordinators who manage asset allocation, landing permits, flight planning, customs and immigration clearance, ground ambulance and ground handling, flight tracking, refueling, crew rostering, and data reporting.

LifeFlight’s Coordination Center also ensures all crew members are ready to take flight, 24/7 365 days a year, by scheduling training events, monitoring currencies, and managing crew fatigue.

The LifeFlight helicopter fleet includes:

  • Leonardo AW139 (five, with a sixth due in November)
  • Bell 412 (three)
  • BK 117 (one)
  • Eurocopter AS350 “Squirrel” (one).

The company’s Air Ambulance Jet fleet includes:

  • Learjet 45 (two)
  • Bombardier Challenger 604 (one).

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