Life Flight

Each week 28 people need time-critical aeromedical care. With your support, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and Air Ambulance Planes are there in their moment of need.

Pilot – Anna

Get to know Anna

What is your role at Life Flight?

I’m one of the four pilots on our Westpac Rescue Chopper, and I’ve been on the team since September 2022.

What work did you do before coming to Life Flight?

I worked in the Air Force, where I learned many transferable skills, and then I worked in the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). But before coming to Life Flight, I was on maternity leave.

What attracted you to Life Flight?

Two reasons. Knowing each day, I make a tangible difference for someone in need. But also, the time I can spend with family, I think that’s crucial for this type of work.

What was the main thing that stood out to you when you started working here?

That’s easy; it’s how many people have a touch point with Life Flight. So many people have either been flown or had close friends, family or colleagues that needed us. Life Flight means so much to the whole community.

Beyond the technical skills needed, what personal values do you think are essential for your role?

Confidence in your experience, training, and ability. Respect for the patients. Resilience in the face of adversity. And the most challenging, having the courage to say ‘no’ or turn back if you can’t safely complete a mission.

Is that the most challenging part of the job?

Absolutely. Sometimes the weather conditions will mean we have to decline a mission or abandon mid-mission. It’s my role to ensure the crew’s safety and that we don’t take unnecessary risks, but it’s incredibly hard knowing someone is out there and needs our help, but we can’t get to them.

Does a particular mission come to mind?

Not long after I started, we flew through the night to the Richmond ranges for a beacon search. It was a real challenge to find the patient due to the complicated terrain and the pitch darkness around us (even with our NVG). Eventually, our WFA flight paramedic sighted the intermittent strobe of the beacon. Still, because of the complex terrain and light levels, we couldn’t see the landscape. After we took some time to discuss how we could approach it, all analysis was saying it wasn’t safe. So, although we found the patient, we couldn’t physically reach them.

We sent the coordinates to Nelson’s Chopper, local search and rescue, and our day crew for the following morning, but they still struggled to find them. It was only while deep in a valley, someone onboard our Westpac Chopper looked up the ridgeline through the tree cover and noticed a pair of boots lying next to a tree trunk. The patient was safely recovered thanks to that.

We couldn’t safely complete that mission at night, so I made the right decision. But, when you’re refuelling at Nelson Airport at 4:00 in the morning, it’s tough knowing someone’s still out there.

What’s the most rewarding part of the job?

A few days after we’ve completed a mission, our Flight paramedics often get an update on our patients progress and recovery. Especially if it was a complicated mission and we really pushed to be able to help. Knowing we had an impact makes me all warm inside.

Have you ever flown someone you know?

I have! We flew to Wanganui to transfer a young person with a head injury, and his dad was coming on the flight. Only when his dad got on board did I realise I knew the family! It highlighted the importance of our role because the time saved getting him to the hospital, and the surgery he urgently needed, made a massive difference. That mission will always stick with me because I see how well that young man is doing now.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

Just spending time with my family! Watching the kids’ sports and getting out on our mountain bikes, we love to be outdoors.

What would you like to say to our wonderful supporters?

Thank you from my heart. I’ve seen the spectrum of supporters here, and I know that every bit counts. My job is only possible with the equipment around me, which comes with a price tag. I’m always appreciative knowing where those funds came from.

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