Sunshine Coast’s high-tech ambulance choppers take off
AN $85 million fleet of "flying ambulances" bound for Victorian emergency services have taken off from Caloundra Airport.
The helicopters were fitted out by the specialist team of engineers and machinists at Caloundra company HeliMods, which has worked on everything from police choppers to a BBC fit-out that enabled the airlifting of orangutans and their release in the wild to be filmed.
HeliMod managing director Will Shrapnel said his team of nearly 30 staff took the "empty shells" of helicopters and redesigned the interior.
"Helicopters are really built for transporting people, not for specialist services," he said.
"Our work is what allows a service like Victorian Ambulance to set up their helicopter exactly how they need it to carry out their missions."
Medical oxygen, pressure loading systems and specialist lighting and layouts were just some of the features his team installed on the machines, with a combined value of $85 million."They have got to be able to administer intensive care during the flight," he said.
"Often the patients are in a very critical, unstable condition - and to be able to do that while flying you've got to have access to a lot of equipment at your fingertips."
Mr Shrapnel said his next job would be for RACQ Careflight, which had commissioned HeliMod to work on rescue helicopters for southeast Queensland.
Helimods also had machines in Antarctica with the Australian Antarctic Division, he said.
A resident of Caloundra and a long-term Sunshine Coast resident, he said he was proud his team was able to contribute to a high-value local industry.
"Our team of world-class engineers together with support from our local suppliers have ensured that these state-of-the-art helicopters are ready to provide critical emergency services over the summer holidays," Mr Shrapnel said.
"We are a global company however we choose to operate from the Sunshine Coast through the niche service delivery of custom designed and manufactured helicopter modifications."
He said it was great to be able to base his business at Caloundra Airport.
"Our business is a good example of a high-value one that's very low impact to the community but contributes a lot of value," he said. "There should be more of it."
Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said HeliMods was a great example of how a local firm could deliver world class expertise to a global market.
"I understand that there are only a handful of firms across the globe which delivers the same range of services as HeliMods," he said. "Essentially they have created a very successful business by being highly competitive in the delivery of custom engineering and production solutions in a high value, low volume industry.
"This is outstanding. It's exactly the kind of really high value and high-tech business that we'd like to encourage.
"It's also fair to say this is the tip of the iceberg. We will only see more demand for modified and customised helicopters. We're only scratching the tip of the iceberg in terms of opportunity."
The aviation and aerospace sector contributed $124.6 million to the regional economy and provides more than 500 jobs, he said.