27 January 2015

More on the Air Ambulance Proposal

Sounds Air’s proposal to provide an air ambulance service in addition to a scheduled air service between Westport and Wellington is a big plus for Buller, says mayor Garry Howard. Sounds Air will take over Air New Zealand’s Westport to Wellington service in April. It is spending about $6 million buying two nine-seater Pilatus PC12s, formerly owned by Australia’s Royal Flying Doctor Service. It also plans to provide charters and is gearing up for medical transfers. Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford said yesterday that the airline planned to buy US$65,000 worth of medical gear so its planes could offer an emergency ambulance service. Mr Howard said the council was “really excited” about the benefits of an air ambulance service to the West Coast. “That’s something that we are encouraging and we will have discussions with the DHB with regard to that. This is really a good thing for the Coast. It certainly is going to assist with Westport and Karamea in particular.” He said his council would also be talking to Sounds Air about additional services at Westport Airport to benefit ratepayers. At present, Air New Zealand covered a number of the services at the airport, such as check-in, and rented the airport terminal “We will be looking at a package where we will be able to combine a number of jobs,” Mr Howard said. Westport Airport would lose about $600 in landing fees a year when Sounds Air took over, he said. The airline would pay less than Air New Zealand because it operated lighter planes, even though it would offer more flights. The fees are set every five years by the Ministry of Transport and won’t be reviewed until 2018. Westport Airport is owned by the Buller District Council and the Ministry of Transport. It made a net deficit of $107,855 for the year to June 30, 2014. The Westport Airport Authority now has accumulated losses of over $1m. Authority chief executive Sonia Cresswell said the airport accounts actually broke even but depreciation pushed them into the red. A change in airline operator might open the way for more income opportunities in future, she said. Sounds Air would pay for any new signage and marketing at the airport. “We anticipate any branding installed by Sounds Air will reflect the excellent standards the Sounds Air business is known for.” Air New Zealand has agreed to gift the council some of its ground handling equipment at the airport. The equipment had a book value of up to $30,000, Ms Cresswell said. The authority had received an excellent response both locally and nationally to the announcement of the new air service and looked forward to the opportunities the service offered the Coast, she said.

Source : Westport News

For photos of the PC-12s in Royal Flying Doctor Service usage see 


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  2. Maybe it's the pessimist in me, but does anyone else think they should concentrate on getting the WS run set up right prior to trying air ambulance?
    Air Ambulance is quite a different operation compared to scheduled ops and regardless of what your thoughts are regarding single vs twin debate the local DHBs do seem to prefer twin engined aircraft, I also thought that the West Coast already had an air ambulance service through Grey Hospital / Flying Doctors?

  3. I'm sure Sounds Air will have looked at this with their eyes wide open. Garden City are currently doing air ambulance to the West Coast

  4. Ah, one of their PC12's is coming from RFDS who use them for air ambo work!