15 August 2013 (UPDATED 27 July 2015) © David Eyre
Second rescue helicopter ‘RESCUE 652’ to be based at Bunbury Airport
On 10 June 2015, the Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis announced that Western Australia’s second rescue helicopter will be based at Bunbury Airport, in a new facility which is about to be built.
The City of Bunbury has contributed land and initial land clearing works, as well as building fences and access roads.
The tender process for the second helicopter started in 2013, and it will enter service in early 2016, using the callsign ‘RESCUE 652’. RESCUE 652 will cover the South West, Great Southern, Peel and Wheatbelt areas of Western Australia, providing the Jandakot-based helicopter, RESCUE 651, with more time to servce Perth, the Wheatbelt, Mid-West and Gascoyne regions. Together, the two helicopters will cover 95 per cent of the population of Western Australia.
The current Perth-based rescue helicopter, Bell 412EP VH-EWA, has already changed its callsign from ‘RESCUE 65’ to ‘RESCUE 651’.
Service in high demand
WA currently has only one dedicated civilian rescue helicopter, Bell 412EP VH-EWA ‘RESCUE 651’, also known as the “RAC Rescue helicopter”, which is based at Jandakot Airport.
The helicopter is managed by the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), partly funded by the WA State Government, with RAC as the main sponsor and CHC Helicopters providing the helicopter and flight crew.
RESCUE 651 completed over 600 rescue missions across WA during the 2013/2014 financial year, but some rescue requests could not be attended, as the helicopter was already tasked on other rescue flights.
The South West of WA has seen rapidly increasing demand for the rescue helicopter, from its increasing population and an increasing number of tourists visiting the area, especially at Christmas and other holiday periods. This leads to more car accidents and more of a need to service the South West with greater search and rescue capabilities,” he said.
The Minister first confirmed on 15 August 2013 that a second rescue helicopter would be acquired, using $15.3 million of funding from the Royalties for Regions program. The latest statement now says that the State Government has allocated $29.95 million from the Royalties for Regions program over four years to establish the service.
As reported on AviationWA on 5 February 2013, the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia (RAC) was lobbying the political parties in the lead up to the 2013 State Election, to acquire a second rescue helicopter for the South West of Western Australia.