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Our History

Our History

From humble beginnings in Sydney in 1973 as a basic beach surveillance and rescue service the Westpac Life Saver Helicopter has developed into the largest non-profit Aviation Search and Rescue service in Australia.

Its aircraft and rescue crews respond quickly and efficiently to emergencies threatening the life, health and safety of people caused through medical emergency, illness, natural disaster, accidents or mishap.

Westpac Banking Corporation has been the major sponsor of the Service since its inception, and all helicopter services run by Surf Life Saving Australia are well known throughout Australia as “Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters”.

Life Saver Rescue Helicopters can be found in Sydney, Newcastle, Moruya on the NSW south coast, Lismore, Tamworth, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

Helicopter in 1985

The original Bell C47 MASH type helicopter efficiently rescued endangered swimmers by dispatching a crewperson into the water to commence emergency care and then lowering both by line from the helicopter to shore.

Westpac Life Saver Helicopter widened its capabilities to include Search and Rescue from cliffs, ravines, bush locations, medical care and accident transfers, hospital patient transfers and other diverse emergency scenarios.

Public emergency and health services demand resulted in the need for larger aircraft and increased on-board crew and medical staff.

When the Service commenced operations in 1973 it operated on weekends and public holidays during the surf season. This later changed to weekends and public holidays throughout the year.

Today the service is on standby to respond to missions 7 days a week, 365 days a year, operating from a purpose built base at Cape Banks on the northern headland of Botany Bay at La Perouse in Sydney, and from a base at Moruya Airport on the NSW South Coast.

Emergency service groups including the NSW Police Force, Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW State Emergency Service, Australian Search and Rescue (AusSAR) and Surf Lifesaving task our aircraft to assist with emergencies throughout the Sydney and NSW South Coast communities.