Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Rob Recalls the Real-Life Drama of the Rescue Pilot; Coast Helicopter Chief Calls Time on a Career of Crucial Service. Kieran Campbell Reports

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Rob Recalls the Real-Life Drama of the Rescue Pilot; Coast Helicopter Chief Calls Time on a Career of Crucial Service. Kieran Campbell Reports

Article excerpt

THROUGH the thick clouds, the stars can do little to light up the ground.

Hovering above the hidden helipad, the flashing lights of an ambulance begin to cast light on parts of the tarmac.

There is a patient on board who was rescued in the previous hour, possibly from a crash or a medical emergency.

Their life hangs in the balance as the pilot manoeuvres the helicopter through the misting rain. The quicker it lands the sooner the patient will be rushed to hospital.

It is one of the most stressful parts of the job for a pilot of a rescue helicopter crew.

After more than three decades flying aircraft, the skills are nearly second nature to Rob Walford.

The veteran pilot flashes his mind forward to what he is likely to face before the helicopter leaves for a rescue.

It could be a makeshift helipad in the middle of a roadway at night or a search for an empty field in the middle of the bush.

A winch job on the side of a cliff or fuel management for a rescue from a sinking vessel out to sea.

As he prepares for retirement from almost seven years as the CEO of the Sunshine Coast Helicopter Rescue Service, Rob casts his mind back to the many rescue missions he has been involved in.

A career-pilot, he spent many years flying rescue crews and medicos to crash scenes and on recovery missions.

His role as CEO meant managing the rescue service to make sure it was not forced to run on just an oily rag.

Even as he recalls some of the most challenging missions, the pragmatic manager in Rob reveals the side that has helped make the rescue service a success. aThat's why we're hoping night vision goggles will be a key part of the future,a Rob tells me, interrupting his own stories about trying to land a chopper on an unlit pad in the middle of the night.

Rob announced his retirement this month. …

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