Arrival of rescue helicopter boosts air ambulance service

A rescue helicopter is operational in Te Anau again, bringing the South Island's air ambulance service back up to full strength.

The BK117, almost identical to the aircraft that crashed near the Auckland Islands on April 22, arrived at Southern Lakes Helicopters last month.

Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) NZ chief executive Ken Franklin said the aircraft had previously been used by an air ambulance service in the North Island.

It had passed an independent audit to ensure it and the company's operation complied with strict requirements set by the Ministry of Health and ACC for air ambulance service providers.

"It's quite an intensive process, and it can't be hurried, despite the fact we knew the aircraft was appropriately fitted out.

"It's able to utilise the crew, capability and experience based in Te Anau."

Southern Lakes Helicopters operations manager Lloyd Matheson said the aircraft became operational for air ambulance services earlier this month, but had yet to fly a rescue mission.

The company's Te Anau base covers Fiordland, Stewart Island, parts of Southland, and can fly missions to the Southern Ocean.

HEMS is a joint venture between GCH Aviation in Christchurch and Helicopters Otago, based in Mosgiel, to provide air ambulance services in the South Island.

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