Interview: Mark Delaney - GM | Toll Helicopters

INterview.Mark Delaney
Mark my words

Mark Delaney, General Manager of Toll Helicopters, spoke to AirMed&Rescue about the development of the organisation’s new helicopter rescue service in New South Wales, Australia

What is your previous experience in the helicopter/rescue industry, and how did you come to your current role?

I flew helicopters for 15 years in my early career with the Royal New Zealand Airforce as part of their Search and Rescue unit. I was fortunate to fly all over NZ and on deployments to Antarctica, the Pacific Islands and the Middle East.

In the past 10 years, I have been General Manager of the Queensland Government’s Rescue Helicopter Service, Director of Aviation for CareFlight and now General Manager of Toll Helicopters.

How have your previous roles helped you in developing Toll’s offering?

I have flown over 10,000 hours, so have a broad depth of understanding of the conditions, challenges, issues and risks that our crew faces on a daily basis. This is coupled with a deep belief and commitment to ensure we have a world class safety management system and culture within our business.

In 2017, Toll Group officially launched the Toll Rescue Helicopter Service in partnership with NSW Ambulance to provide greater aeromedical services to communities of NSW in the Southern Zone. How has the service found the first 18 months of operation? Has the call volume and mission profile been as expected?

It has been an extremely successful launch for the new service. We have a true partnership with NSW Ambulance and ACT Ambulance, working as an integrated team in our facilities and training together to ensure a world class aeromedical retrieval service is provided to the communities of Southern NSW and ACT.

The tempo and volume of tasking has exceeded what was forecast. There have been more winch rescues than was anticipated and we are finding that we are completing more long-range jobs due to the capability of the AW139. With resource planning, recruitment and preparation in place, this has enabled us to safely and competently deliver on the missions tasked. 

Summary of first 12 months of operation with 4 bases mobilised over the first 6 months and NETS brought online in May 2017

Toll provides pilots, aircrewman and helicopters, while NSW Ambulance provides medical staff – do the same teams work together often, or are there constant rotations?

One of the clear intentions of the NSW Ambulance and ACT Ambulance Service management, in partnership with Toll, was to provide a standardised fleet and standardised crews across the whole contract region. This allows for flexibility and movement of crews to provide the best outcome for patients whilst knowing that the crew will be operating to standardised manners in all situations.

This brings an additional layer of safety to all of our operations.

One of the clear intentions of the NSW Ambulance and ACT Ambulance Service management, in partnership with Toll, was to provide a standardised fleet and standardised crews across the whole contract region

The Aeromedical Crewing Excellence (ACE) Training Centre commenced operations in October 2016 and is one of the most advanced aeromedical training centres in the world. What makes this centre different from others like it?

The ACE Training Centre was designed to support the holistic outcome with crews being trained to high levels of competency, currency, safety and standardisation utilising the latest in simulation technology. The human factors overlaid on all training ensures that our crew members are equipped with the best crew resource management skills to handle the varied and diverse situations they face on a daily basis. Ultimately, this leads to safer operations.

The combination of world-class simulation and training devices, embedded within the actual operation, enhances all training and safety outcomes. In addition, all our crew members attend cyclic training blocks at the ACE three times a year. It is the centre of excellence that houses our extremely qualified instructing team and course delivery.

Do you think that more private companies are going to have to step into rescue and emergency medical provision as financial pressure means that fewer governments have the resources to provide such services themselves?

Yes, this trend will continue worldwide as governments secure commercial levels of performance and accountability via very strict liability and KPI regimes.

What is a) the most challenging part of your role; and b) the most satisfying?

a) The requirement for a relentless application to all aspects of the safety management system to ensure the safety of all operations;

b) The realisation of the step change in the industry and a demonstrable improvement in so many aspects of what we have achieved. Much of which goes to the vision of Dr Ron Manning and the NSW Ambulance team.