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Westpac Rescue Helicopter

When speed to hospital is critical or when the location is remote or challenging, Life Flight’s rescue team is called upon. Our Westpac Rescue Helicopter serves the lower North and upper South Island.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter is a Bolkow Kawasaki 117 (BK117), a model that works well for emergency work because it’s sturdy, fast, versatile and provides excellent access for treating critically ill patients. 

It’s a twin-engine helicopter, which means our teams – a pilot, crewman, and Intensive Care paramedic – and our patients fly safely and soundly. Each engine is 850 horsepower. 

Thanks to the outstanding support from the community, and from dedicated sponsors such as Westpac, Life Flight is able to rescue people from extraordinary circumstances 24/7.

Types of missions


Photo: Scott Hammond & Ben Calder - Marlborough Express

Search and rescue

Lost at sea or in the bush - search and rescue missions are often the most challenging. High tech equipment including the rescue winch and night vision goggles are often used to aid the search. 


Photo credit: Lindsay Keats

Helicopter ambulance 

Car crashes, farm, workplace and bush accidents, time-critical cardiovascular emergencies – there are just some of missions the helicopter encounters on a day-to-day basis.​​


Photo credit: Mark Tantrum

Neonatal and pediatric missions

Our smallest patients are critically ill premature babies, weighing as little as 500 grams.

Bomb Squad training

Photo credit: Mark Tantrum

Bomb squad missions

We work with the Army’s bomb squad to transport their robot, which can investigate suspect packages or neutralise explosives.

Maritime liaison

Photo credit: Lindsay Keats

Maritime Liaisons

Our experts can be called upon to advise during maritime emergencies.


Photo credit: Derek Quinn

Urgent medical transfers

When every minute counts, the Helicopter is used to transfer patients to get the specialist medical care they urgently need.

Rescue Equipment

The emergency air service is a tough environment for equipment due to constant vibrations, turbulence, mud, water, sand and just about anything else New Zealand conditions can throw at it. Fortunately, support from generous donors, trusts and grant bodies help keep our equipment in top nick.

  • Rescue Winch

    The winch is literally a life-line for those involved in maritime disasters or accidents in dense bush. The cable is only a few millimetres thick yet it can lift up to 270kg.

  • Night vision goggles

    These military-grade goggles can amplify a light source to be more than 7,000 times brighter.

  • Winch stretcher

    This stretcher allows patients to be winched into the helicopter safely and comfortably. It is  lightweight and easy for the crew to handle and stow.

  • Immersion Survival Suit

    These highly-visible suits are vital if the team is called to an off-shore mission. Without them, in 10°C water, the crew could develop hypothermia within 10 minutes. With them, they are kept dry and warm for up to an additional two hours.