The arrival of a new pilot is the final piece in the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter team puzzle and a very important milestone, says Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust chair Patrick Willock.
Originally from Dannevirke, Shaun Stewart relocated from Auckland to take up the role after 14 years’ experience in agricultural and charter flying, racking up the thousands of hours needed for medical aviation.
“We started 2023 with a team of just eight so with a 24/7 service every day of the year — requiring a pilot, a critical care flight paramedic and a crewman on each mission — they faced some pretty demanding rosters,” Mr Willock says.
“And while they did a fantastic job, they worked through an incredibly busy year so we are grateful to have reached approval for a full team of 12, made up of four each of the professional disciplines.”
That created a better work/life balance for team members, which was critical if the service wanted to keep high-achieving rescue professionals in Tairāwhiti, Mr Willock added.
“At the same time it locks in security of service in a region that is not only has many pockets of rural and remote populations, but is in its own way remote from the rest of the country and needs this lifesaving service even more than most.”
In the seven days from Monday, January 29 the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter delivered seven completed missions and two stand-downs, starting at 2.05pm that day with their response to a medical event at Te Kaha that resulted in the patient being flown in stable condition to Gisborne Hospital.
On the Wednesday they carried out three missions: to a medical event at Te Araroa (1.20pm) in which the patient did not require transport; to a medical event at Te Puia Springs (3.45pm), flying the patient in stable condition to Gisborne Hospital; and to a medical event at Tikitiki (11.30pm), with the patient again flown in stable condition to Gisborne Hospital.
At 12.50pm on Thursday, February 1 the team were called to Mahia for a medical event, and just over two hours later headed to Tikitiki, again in response to a medical event. In both cases the patients were flown in stable condition to Gisborne Hospital.
At 11am on Friday the team was called to a medical event at Hicks Bay, from where the patient was flown in stable condition to Gisborne Hospital.
And over the weekend the team also flew two missions – to Hicks and Waipiro bays – reaching their destinations before being stood down.
CAPTION: The arrival of pilot Shaun Stewart (right) is an important milestone that takes the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter service to having its much-anticipated full team of 12, says Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust chair Patrick Willock (left).