“It is all about getting the patient where they need to go – we often don’t know what is happening with the patient until after the mission is completed.”
As one of the newest pilots at Northland Emergency Services Trust (NEST) – the organisation that runs the Northland Rescue Choppers – Shane Brearley says it had been a long-time goal of his to fly rescue choppers.
So much so, that when the opportunity came up at NEST, he relocated his young family from Australia’s Sunshine Coast to Whangarei, so he could take up the chance to achieve his goal.
While many people might think it’s a full action, adventurous job each and every day, Shane says there often can be a lot of waiting around at the base on Western Hills Drive in Whangarei waiting for the next call – and you never know when they might be.
“We have a good list of daily and weekly jobs we get through at the base – everything always has to be ready to go as soon as a call comes in,” he says.
And the calls come thick and fast some days.
A combination of hospital transfers or a full rescue in the rural reaches of Northland’s rugged landscapes – or a long flight over the ocean to a ship or vessel out at sea – its always an unknown of what lays ahead. No two days are the same, and each and every time the pilots have to ensure the choppers are ready.
“It’s always different. Each mission, it is nice to know you are making a difference. You are there as a pilot to transport these people who need help to get where they need to go, whether it’s a hospital transfer for urgent surgery or a full rescue scenario,” he says.
“At the time, we just concentrate on the job at hand – which is flying the aircraft. We do our job, and the paramedics do theirs, and afterwards we find out the details. It means we can concentrate on doing what we need to do at the time.”
“The job creates a great feeling – we are making a difference by what we do.”
With a love of flying that started at a young age, his passion for helicopters was forged as a teenager after watching a documentary on the aircraft, showing how versatile they can be.
“They are an amazing aircraft – the fact they can hover, go forwards, backwards, even sideways – they are truly spectacular. “
“And the type of aircraft we use here at NEST is a great one to be flying. They have good capabilities and they are a good size. At present we are testing the two new machines and getting them all ready for use – the new machines have newer technology and are an amazing asset to have here in Northland.”
Unlike some other regions around New Zealand, every Northland Rescue Chopper has two pilots on board anytime it heads out on a mission.
“That is our procedures and it works really well, especially on the longer flights we do.”
After hours of flying, the crew land back at base but the mission isn’t over yet.
Supplies have to be restocked, the chopper needs checking, cleaning, and refuelling – and all equipment is inspected to ensure its ready to go in just moments after the next call comes in.
And it will come – whether in seconds, minutes or hours – and they will be ready.