New Zealand’s Philips Search & Rescue Trust and Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter have bid farewell to retiring pilot Grant Bremner after over three decades of service.
Bremner has flown with Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter, a HEMS provider which serves the Waikato, Coromandel and King Country regions of New Zealand’s North Island, since 1987.
Bremner was approached by Philips Search and Rescue Trust (PSRT) to join newly formed rescue helicopter service, and tasked tasked with setting up a base in the city of Hamilton, which became Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Bremner describes the task as his ‘greatest challenge’ during his time on the job. “Everything was completely new and foreign, we started from scratch on a blank canvas,” Bremner said.
According to a statement by PSRT: “Grant has played a crucial role in the development of this invaluable service, and without him and his efforts, the rescue helicopters would not be where they are today. The impact he has made on the community over the past three and a half decades is unforgettable.”
Instrumental to the service
Waikato Westpac relies predominantly on sponsorship and community support to fund its operations. Bremner says that although fundraising to establish and sustain the air ambulance service was at times challenging, support from the community was abundant.
During the early days of the service’s operation, Bremner was involved in fundraising for the construction of a new hangar and helipad for Waikato Hospital. Prior to the construction of both, rescue helicopters were required to land on the adjacent nursing home’s tennis court.
“Association with the region’s first and only rescue helicopter service appealed to most businesses, it was a highly visible community cause to support,” Bremner said. “Trustbank, who later became Westpac, came on board as foundation sponsor, and continues as principal sponsor today for the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter”.
PSRT is New Zealand’s largest rescue helicopter service, with five BK117 helicopters operating from four bases in Central North Island, including Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter.