"The Land Rover LifeFlight Special Mission helicopter is dedicated to emergency response, such as search and rescue (SAR), law enforcement, firefighting support, surveillance, aeromedical and disaster response operations," said LifeFlight Commercial Director Yvette Lutze.
Every detail of the aircraft has been specifically designed for emergency response deployment – it is one of the few aircraft in Australia equipped and crewed to perform missions up to 400 kilometers offshore, including winch rescues, even at night. Paul Forcier, Chief Pilot, commented: “It's one of only a few in the country that can descend at night and maintain a hover at 50 feet. The auto hover can lock the machine in position over a survivor, even if the survivor is moving with a tide, or being lifted up and down in rough seas.” Furthermore, the aircraft has dual hoists, which are a vital feature that allow the aircraft to go above and beyond most other emergency response choppers.
“The dual hoist is critical for performing winch rescues at long distances out to sea, when you need to ensure the remote possibility of equipment failure will not jeopardise the mission. There is always a back-up,” added Forcier.
The forward looking infra-red (FLIR) is an additional feature that allows for more efficient rescues to take place: “The FLIR can 'lock on' to the heat signature and allow us to follow the person, even if they can’t be seen or they're moving – maybe caught in swift water or running from danger on the ground, or even trying to outrun law enforcement,” said Forcier. “It's a huge technological advantage when rescuing multiple people who are moving or in low visibility conditions – for example a group of people dispersed in the water from an overturned vessel.”
The Land Rover LifeFlight Special Mission helicopter is currently on stand-by to undertake missions on behalf of Australian emergency response agencies and is also available for private commercial charter.
Aircraft ready to serve Australia
The Land Rover LifeFlight Special Mission helicopter is a Leonardo AW139, which can fly up to 270 km/h, travel over 800 kilometers before refuelling, and airlift up to 2,200 kg.
The chopper and crew will be based at LifeFlight's Archerfield West facility, in Brisbane.
“Lifeflight has served Queenslanders for more than forty years. Our RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters and jets keep our remote and regional communities connected to the highest levels of healthcare. To be able to offer an aircraft of this calibre, with its impressive capabilities, to respond to emergency situations anywhere in our state or across Australia; it's an important milestone for aviation services in Queensland,” said LifeFlight Commercial Chairman Hon. Jim Elder.
Multi-mission aircraft can also be used in bushfire response
Yvette Lutze explained: “This aircraft not only excels in search and rescue situations. It can be very quickly reconfigured to suit any emergency response requirement. The crew can use the onboard technology to pick up hot spots before bushfires flare out of control, or to find survivors amongst the devastation of natural disasters. It has the capability to help communities in the aftermath of fire, flood and other catastrophic events.”