Legends: Graeme Nickisson, Barry Walton and Peter Cook with the old chopper. Goodbyes are never easy.And for the stalwarts of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, this saying couldn’t be more true.
Their old girl (is that what you call an old helicopter?) willretirefrom the rescue service this week.
The helicopter, a Bell 412, is part of an old fleet that will make way for the rollout of four new AgustaWestland AW139 aircraft.
These new choppers will be used over the next decade, under a new contract with the NSW government and NSW Ambulance Service.
But don’t fret for the old Bell 412. She’s not headed for the scrapyard just yet.
She’s been sold to a German buyer. Her new job will be firefighting exercises in southern Europe, ahead of summer.
She’s going to be missed.
Pilot Peter Cook, a 27-year veteran of the rescue service, described her as “a tough and reliable aircraft”.
Peter added that the chopper was “like a good old friend”.
Hewas flying the Bell 412 when a drive-shaft failureforced it to makean emergency landing at Kurri Kurri in 1997.
Air crewman Graeme Nickisson said the chopper “always brought us home”.
Graeme, who has been with the chopper service for 36 years, said the aircraft was “only as good as the engineers who helped maintain her”.
The Bell 412’s missions included medical transfers, offshore winches, road accidents and intensive care transfers for newborn babies.
Barry Walton has been with the rescue service for 41 years. Theformer air crewman, who is now the service’s community liaison officer,recalled rescuing a sick patient off the back of the Fairstar cruise ship in 1996.
More recently, the chopperwas famously involved in rescuing crew from the Pasha Bulker in the 2007 storm.
The rescue service first used the Bell 412 in 1994, having bought her from Toyota.
The Japanese automotive company had been using her as transport for VIP executives.
It was originally designed as a military aircraft, but was refitted for medical emergencies and search and rescue operations.
The Bell 412’s arrival followed the service’s Dauphin 365 helicopter crashing in the Barrington Tops in 1993.
The community rallied to help raise money for a new chopper.
As Topics reported in May, the Dauphin 365 was once owned by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
Thishelicopter could have been the one that Ceausescu fled in during the Romanian Revolution and military coup of 1989 that brought an end to his brutal rule.
Records show Ceausescu had four presidential Dauphin 365 helicopters, one of which was used in his escape from a government building.
Protestors had infiltrated the building and were close to capturing the dictator.
As protesters reached the roof, the overloaded helicopter struggled to get airborne.
The escape was short-lived. Ceausescu and his wife Elena were arrested soon after and charged with illegal gathering of wealth and genocide. They were executed on Christmas Day 1989 by firing squad.
The rescue service knows it bought one of Ceausescu’s Dauphin 365 choppers from an aviation broker, but its unclearwhether it was the chopper used in the escape.
Yep, the choppers of the rescue service havequite a history.
First Knight Harry Spence with dad Charlie.
Harry Spence can consider himself a special lad. You see, he was born on the same day that the“Our Knights, One Chance” campaign was launched.
The timing wasn’t lost on Harry’s mumNatalieand dadCharlie (pictured holding Harry).
Harry became the first owner of the Newcastle Knights under the proposed community-ownership model.
Harry’s story follows our piece on Tuesday aboutCraig “Rocky” Webb.
Craigmessaged the “Our Knights, One Chance” Facebook page from Philadelphia and sent pictures of himself in Knights supporter gear in front of US icons.
This included photos of himself at the famous Rocky statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, along withthe Abraham Lincoln andMartin Luther King statues in Washington.
[email protected]苏州夜网.au Craig Webb showing his colours at the Rocky statue in Philadelphia.