Record financial year of airlifts for Sunshine Coast chopper service

The Sunshine Coast RACQ LifeFlight Rescue base has chalked up a record financial year of saving lives.

Between July 2020 and June 2021, local crews flew an astounding 584 critical missions.

Those airlifts are valued at more than $14.6 million, with each airlift’s average cost estimated at $25,000. 

RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Director of Helicopter Operations, Brian Guthrie, said the record number is a credit to the highly skilled crews, who are on the clock 24/7.

RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Director of Helicopter Operations, Brian Guthrie

“We’re able to provide that high level of care, to anyone that needs it.

“It comes at no cost to the individual and they can call on us anywhere, any time.” 

On board the Sunshine Coast chopper, during these critical missions, is a Pilot, Aircrew Officer, RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Critical Care Doctor and Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) Flight Paramedic.

Collectively, Sunshine Coast RACQ LifeFlight Rescue crews were in flight, for nearly 800 hours, last financial year.

“We consider RACQ LifeFlight Rescue a vital piece of infrastructure, within Queensland,” Mr Guthrie said.  

Overall, the 20/21 Financial Year was a record for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue’s community helicopters, with 2,113 flights completed throughout Queensland.

Across RACQ LifeFlight Rescue’s helicopters, Air Ambulance Jets and Critical Care Doctors, 6,733 people were saved last financial year; another record for the service.

“We consider it due to, predominantly, population increase within Queensland and additional to that, a lot of people are holidaying at home, so we have a lot more people on the roads and out and about,” Mr Guthrie said. 

The top five patient injury and illnesses, for the Sunshine Coast RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter, from July ’20- June ’21:

1)      Cardiac (114)

2)      Motor Vehicle Accidents (112)

3)      Neurological (50)

4)      Falls (35)

5)      Serious illness/infection (33)

Approximately one in five missions last financial year, was for motor vehicle related incidents.

RACQ spokesperson, Clare Hunter, said the rescue chopper service is a huge part of Queensland’s DNA, when it comes to getting help to those who need it. 

“Distance is a major factor, when it comes to crashes, so we know that the work that RACQ LifeFlight Rescue crews do is lifesaving.

“If they weren’t able to get to those crashes in time then, sadly, our road toll would be even more horrific than it already is.”

In July last year, the Sunshine Coast RACQ LifeFlight Rescue crew airlifted a survivor from the scene of a fatal vehicle rollover, on Fraser Island. 

More recently, in April, the chopper flew a seriously injured boy from the Sunshine Coast hinterland, to hospital in Brisbane, after he was involved in a motocross crash.  

“We are very grateful for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue, but we wish that they didn’t need to attend these crashes,” Ms Hunter said.

In the past year, the Sunshine Coast hangar has played host to several different aircraft, in LifeFlight’s extensive fleet. 

Since early May, the Land Rover LifeFlight Special Mission Helicopter was based on the coast, while the familiar blue and yellow RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter underwent scheduled engineering.

The LR aircraft is part of LifeFlight Australia’s commercial operation, which supports the work of the community helicopter fleet, through our profit-for-purpose model and is rotated through our community bases from time to time, when operationally required.

Photos and/or video: Courtesy RACQ LifeFlight Rescue