MAC Rescue Helicopter Service

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MAC Rescue Helicopter Service


Sponsor: Motor Accident Commission.Airfield: Adelaide, Display at Torrens Parade GroundsTime Frame: November 2009 Government of South AustraliaState Rescue Helicopters
Thanks to:Justice Department, Business ServicesRescue Helicopter Management Committee

Australian Helicopters

Staff involved in Public Sector Week 2009.

1) History of the State Rescue Helicopter Service

  • In the late 1970’s a number of organisations involved in providing emergency services began talks with Government about providing helicopter capacity in South Australia.   Guy Lloyd, of Lloyd Helicopters saw an opportunity to be involved and was able to provide leadership and advice to the agencies on how the service could be developed.
  • In the summer of 1979/80 a trial was undertaken by Surf Lifesaving, using a Bell 206 Jetranger helicopter, servicing the local South Australian beaches.  There was a significant rescue where a life was saved which demonstrated that the helicopter service had a major and indeed a broader role to play in state rescues.  After the Liberal Party won the election, the new premier David Tonkin indicated the intention to widen the concept to a State Service.
  • The State Government in May 1980 approved the establishment of a full time State Rescue Helicopter Service (SRHS) to be operated by Lloyd Helicopters.  A Bell 206L Long Ranger VH-BJX ‘Rescue 1’ commenced operations.  By this time government organisations using helicopters were: Police, CFS, Health (Retrieval Teams), Ambulance services and independently run Surf Lifesaving.
  • Special facilities were opened at Adelaide Airport in 1980 to house the rescue helicopter operations.
  • Additional helicopters were progressively added and in 1990 the first Bell 412 VH-NSC came into service.
  • Operators of the service have been Lloyd Helicopters, CHC Helicopters, and from 11 December 2005, Australian Helicopters Pty Ltd.  The new operator gained the rescue contract for a term of seven years. They now operate from a specially built  complex near Harbour Town at Adelaide Airport.
  • Previous sponsors of the Rescue Helicopter Service have included Bank of New South Wales, Westpac Bank, S.G.I.C., and Adelaide Bank. The Motor Accident Commission took over sponsorship from 1 July 2009.



On display at the Torrens Parade Grounds, Public Sector Week November 2009.


2) Background

Today, the South Australian State Rescue Helicopter Service (“MAC Rescue Helicopter Service”) is a multi-helicopter service that is principally used by 4 emergency services agencies to support the provision of police, bushfire services, and emergency medical retrieval services to the South Australian community.

Australian Helicopters Pty Ltd is the service provider engaged to supply the helicopters and aircrew and carry out the day-to-day operations of the MAC Rescue Helicopter Service (“MAC RHS”).

The service continues to be well recognised for operating as an effective shared user arrangement which is unique to South Australia.

The cooperation of the user agencies saves dollars by eliminating the need for separate helicopter service contracts in each agency. More importantly, it provides a flexible and efficient service that saves lives.



On display at the Torrens Parade Grounds, Public Sector Week November 2009.


3) Roles performed

The helicopters in operation perform a variety of tasks in the support of the user agencies.  The following table indicates the core tasks that are performed for each agency:

SA Health (DH)
  • Emergency aero medical retrieval
  • Non emergency aero medical retrieval / patient transfer
SA Ambulance Service (SAAS)
  • Patient retrieval / paramedic insertion in difficult access / egress environments
SA Police (SAPOL)
  • Aerial command platform
  • Search and rescue over land and water
  • Intelligence gathering
  • Crime prevention and detection
  • Observation
  • Special tasks
SA Country Fire Service (CFS)
  • Aerial command platform
  • Fire mapping and observation
  • Fire bombing
  • Air attack supervision
All users
  • Transport of personnel and equipment
  • Training

There are also a small number of external users which access the MAC RHS from time to time.  The main one is the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which is the Commonwealth government body responsible for the search and rescue response to national civil aviation and maritime distress incidents.


4)  Role of Justice Business Services

Justice Business Services (JBS) within the Attorney-General’s Department manages the contract and funding arrangements for the MAC RHS, as well as the service partnering agreement between the key user agencies.

5) Aircraft

Australian Helicopters service the MAC RHS requirements with the following three aircraft:

  • The “Agusta Bell 412”, the largest helicopter, is used mostly by SA Health for primary aero-medical retrievals and by SAPOL / SAAS for winch rescue missions.
  • The “BK 117” is also regularly used by Health for inter hospital retrievals. It is also the back up winch aircraft and is also used by SAPOL and CFS.
  • The “EC 130” is regularly used by SAPOL for surveillance and patrol missions, pursuits, and search and rescue over land and water.  The CFS also often uses this helicopter for intelligence missions to collect and disseminate information during a bushfire or for command and control of water bombing operations. It also has an aero-medical capability.


5.1) Agusta Bell 412 (AB412)

Also known as Rescue Five One (Rescue 51 or RS51), medium twin, VH-LSA.

Performs the following key taskings:

  • aero medical retrieval (up to 4 patients)
  • neonatal retrieval (with cot and lifter)
  • winch rescue
  • passenger transport


5.2) BK117

Also known as Rescue Five Two (Rescue 52 or RS52), light twin, VH-VSA.

Performs the following key taskings:

  • aero medical retrieval (up to 2 patients)
  • neonatal retrieval (takes cot)
  • high speed chase in poor weather – due to infra-red capability
  • winch rescue back-up
  • CFS command and control.


5.3) EC130 (single)

Also known as Rescue Five Three (Rescue 53 or RS53), single, VH-OSA.

Performs the following key taskings:

  • Police surveillance and patrols with the capacity to carry a STAR Group team
  • search and rescue over land and water
  • CFS command and control
  • plotting of bush fires
  • aero medical back-up (1 patient)
  • neonatal retrieval (takes cot).


See the 5DME Photo Gallery for more images.

Photos by David H.

Produced by 5DME.

Hot Topic Archive Article….

MAC Rescue Helicopter Service – Public Sector Week Event 2009WOW! What a great day. Well worth the look. Lots of photos and video to come from 5DME.MOTOR ACCIDENT COMMISSION RESCUE HELICOPTER SERVICE


On 26 November 2009, as part of Public Service Week, the rescue service was placed on display at the Torrens Parade Ground, King William Road, North Adelaide.


Two rescue helicopters ‘Rescue 51’ a Bell 412 VH-LSA and ‘Rescue 53’ an EC130 VH-OSA ferried in from Adelaide Airport to participate in the proceedings.





Photos by David H.


  • The Rescue Helicopter Service is used by four key emergency services agencies – SA Health, SA Ambulance, SA Country Fire Service and SA Police.
  • SA Health and SA Ambulance use the helicopters to transport critically injured and ill patients from regional S.A. to hospitals.
  • SA Country Fire Service uses the helicopters to collect and disseminate timely and accurate information to the community during a bushfire, and as an aerial command platform to direct fire-fighting activities.
  • SA Police use the helicopters for crime prevention activities, pursuit of motor vehicles and suspects, & to undertake search & rescue operations in conjunction with SA Ambulance.
  • The service conducts more than 1,000 missions each year around S.A.
  • The Attorney-General’s Department manages the MAC Rescue Helicopter Service partnering agreement on behalf of key agencies.
  • MAC (Motor Accident Commission) has sponsored the service since July 2009
  • The multi-agency approach is a good example of how government agencies work together to provide a flexible & effective service for the benefit of the community.
  • The rescue helicopters a Agusta-Bell 412, MBB-Kawasaki BK117 & Eurocopter EC130 are supplied by Australian Helicopters Pty Ltd and are based at Adelaide Airport.

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Events like this only go to show how important aviation has become in our community. In emergency cases we are almost dependent on such services.