Surf Life Saving WA to take delivery of new A119 helicopter in early 2012; to lease a Eurocopter AS350 Squirrel in interim period

ABOVE: VH-BIN Bell 206B JetRanger III (cn 2019) of HeliWest (leased to Surf Life Saving WA) at Brampton Park, Butler, WA on 7 November 2010.
This was the helicopter previously leased from Heliwest.
Photo © David Eyre
ABOVE: VH-RPW Agusta A119 Koala (cn 14012) of HeliAir at Perth Airport on 10 February 2007.
This is the type which is to be delivered in November 2011.
Photo © David Eyre

23 October 2011 (UPDATED 5 November 2011) – Surf Life Saving WA is to take delivery of a new $2 million Agusta Westland A119 Koala rescue and beach patrol helicopter in early 2012.

They previously leased a Bell 206B JetRanger from Heliwest (VH-BIN) from late 2008 to early 2011 at a cost of $1200 per hour, and it accrued 300 flying hours in five months.

However, following three recent fatalities in Western Australian waters from shark attacks, the WA Government has provided Surf Life Saving WA with $1 million in funding. This has  enabled them to lease an Aerospatiale AS.350BA Squirrel  in the interim period whilst it waits for the A119 to be delivered.

The Squirrel performs better than the JetRanger with a full payload in high temperatures and is more reliable, but  costs more to operate at $1500 per hour. The Squirrel was also selected as it was available immediately. The leased Squirrel  will be used solely for shark and beach patrols, and cannot be used for rescues. It is based at Rous Head, Fremantle, indicating that it may be one of two operated by Azure Helicopters (possibly either VH-FLL and VH-ZRP).

The new A119  helicopter is currently being modified and repainted in Auckland, New Zealand by Heliflite Pacific. It is being fitted with floats, a rescue winch, and first-aid equipment. The new helicopter is being purchased, rather than leased. It  does not cost much more to operate than the earlier JetRanger, but provides the SLSWA with more operational flexibility.

David Eyre

President, Aviation Association of WA Inc

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