The Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust was formed in 1992 to provide a rapid response helicopter rescue facility to deal with emergency situations in the province. While helicopters had previously been available for emergency call outs, they did not fulfil the role of an ambulance.
Initially, a helicopter was available on a semi-dedicated basis but the requirement for a machine to be more readily available which did not have to be called away from its current task became very apparent.
In 1999, the decision was made to provide a fully dedicated rescue ambulance service. This was made possible thanks to the foresight shown by the Taranaki Electricity Trust to become our major sponsor. A hangar was constructed at Taranaki Base Hospital and in 2003 the helicopter was upgraded to an AS 355 F1 Squirrel so that a bigger payload could be carried.
Since the arrival of a dedicated rescue helicopter at Taranaki Base Hospital, service and availability for all types of ambulance related missions have improved dramatically.
The Trust has had a helicopter in the air for nineteen years and is clocking approximately 320 flying hours on rescue missions per year. The demand for the service has steadily increased with the helicopter now flying up to four rescue flights each week – more than justifying the need for the Trust to own a suitably equipped EMS/rescue helicopter.
In June 2007 the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter decided it was time to purchase a helicopter and upgraded the Squirrel to the Agusta Westland Koala 119.
In 2010 CAA begins strenuously enforcing rules preventing single-engine helicopters from operating in and out of hospitals in urban areas. The Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter Trust begins looking for a new machine to meet the safety regulations after a compromise with the CAA looks unlikely. The Trust finalised a deal to purchase a second-hand twin-engined Agusta 109 Power to replace its A119 Koala.
In March 2011 the twin-engined Agusta 109 Power arrives, which should have been operational by late April. A six week process was required to fit necessary medical communication radios, a DZM system and to gain NZ Certification. However it is still not operational because of unexpected delays therefore is not CAA certified yet.