The services, operated through the state’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) under the RAC Rescue Helicopter brand, are expected to begin operations with new aircraft from late 2023.
The aircraft are being acquired in partnership with the service’s helicopter and air crew provider, CHC Helicopter Australia, with whom the government has renewed its contract for another 12 years.
The new aircraft will replace the existing fleet of three Bell 412EP twin-engine helicopters, comprising two primary helicopters and a backup based in Bunbury and Jandakot, offering increased range and enhanced technology, including improved night vision imaging systems, search and rescue radars, and more advanced critical aeromedical equipment.
Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said: “This significant upgrade will provide even more capability to support cyclones and flooding in remote areas and respond to bushfires where medical evacuations are required.”
Using the current fleet, RAC Rescue Helicopter provides 24-hour coverage across a 200km operational radius of Perth – however, the new aircraft are expected to increase this range to 350km. As the sole emergency helicopter operator in Western Australia, the increase will provide a substantial boost to coverage across the state.
Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson added: “In the direst times of need, the Emergency Rescue Helicopter Service has saved thousands of Western Australian lives and supported some of the most complex emergency operations across our wide and rugged State. This will provide an even greater service for Western Australia and ensures our State has a word-class aeromedical rescue service for the next 10 years.”
The $26.7 million budget for the aircraft is substantially lower than previously stated figures for the planned aircraft purchase, but the number of aircraft and specified range increase remain the same as in previous reports.
In the May issue of AirMed&Rescue, Terry Shehan, Superintendent for Aviation Services for DFES stated: “On 15 December 2021, the WA government announced a commitment of A$50 million to deliver three next-generation emergency helicopters for WA.”
DFES has been approached to elaborate on the reason behind the difference in figures.