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Westpac Rescue Helicopter

When speed to hospital is critical or when the location is remote or challenging, Life Flight’s rescue team is called upon. Our Westpac Rescue Helicopter serves the lower North and upper South Island.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter

When our team receives a rescue call, our Westpac Rescue Helicopter team, including a pilot, crewman and Intensive Care paramedic, gather the necessary equipment for the job and swiftly get on board.

The helicopter is a Bolkow Kawasaki 117 (BK117). This model works well for emergency work as it’s robust, fast, versatile and provides good access for treating patients.

Because it’s a twin engine helicopter, our teams and patients also fly with added safety. Each engine is 850 horsepower.


Thanks to the outstanding support from the community, and from dedicated sponsors such as Westpac, Life Flight is able to rescue people from extraordinary circumstances 24/7.

Types of missions flown

Photo credit: Scott Hammond & Ben Calder / Marlborough Express

Search and rescue

Often the most challenging operations involving the rescue winch and high-tech search equipment, such as night vision goggles.

Photo credit: Lindsay Keats

Helicopter ambulance response

Serious road or workplace accidents and urgent medical issues that can require the helicopter to land in tight spaces.

Photo credit: Mark Tantrum

Neonatal and paediatric missions

Our smallest patients are critically ill premature babies, weighing as little as 500 grams.

Photo credit: Mark Tantrum

Bomb squad mission

We also work with the Army’s bomb squad to transport their robot, which can investigate suspect packages or neutralise explosives.

Photo credit: Lindsay Keats

Maritime Liaisons

Our experts can be called upon to advise during maritime emergencies.

Photo credit: Derek Quinn

Urgent medical transfers

Flying people to specialist medical care they urgently need.

Rescue Equipment

The emergency air service is a tough environment for equipment due to constant vibrations, turbulence, mud, water, sand and just about anything else New Zealand conditions can throw at it. Fortunately, support from generous donors, trusts and grant bodies help keep our equipment in top nick.

  • Rescue Winch

    The winch is literally a life-line for those involved in maritime disasters or accidents in dense bush. The cable is only a few millimetres thick yet it can lift up to 270kg.

  • Night vision goggles

    These military-grade goggles can amplify a light source to be more than 7,000 times brighter.

  • Winch stretcher

    This stretcher allows patients to be winched into the helicopter safely and comfortably. It is  lightweight and easy for the crew to handle and stow.

  • Immersion Survival Suit

    These highly-visible suits are vital if the team is called to an off-shore mission. Without them, in 10°C water temps, the crew could develop hypothermia within 10 minutes. With them, they are kept dry and warm for up to an additional two hours.