Safety & Rescue Services

Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service

Surf Life Saving Western Australia operates two Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopters, with the services providing coverage to the Perth metropolitan area and the South-West of WA. 

About the Service

The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter was launched in December 2008 and is a service provided by Surf Life Saving Western Australia (SLSWA). The helicopter service is proudly supported by the State Government of Western Australia and Westpac, who have been supporters of Surf Life Saving for 40 years. 

Metro Service

The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter that services the Perth metropolitan area is based at Rous Head in Fremantle. It is a full time service, 365 days a year and provides coastal surveillance, search and rescue response and support to emergency services, flying over 400 hours each year. The service responds to emergency incidents and performs coastal surveillance patrols of the greater Perth metropolitan area, all the way from Mandurah in the south to Yanchep in the north. The metro service helicopter, Lifesaver 8, is named the ‘John Roberts AO’ in respect of the late Mr John Roberts, a respected Perth business identity and long-time supporter of Surf Life Saving. That support continues today through the Roberts family’s ongoing support of the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter.

South West Service

Driven by a changing ocean environment and with support of the WA State Government, SLSWA commenced helicopter surveillance operations in the South West at the end of 2011. This service commenced primarily as a surveillance operation within the State Governments Shark Mitigation Strategy, however it has now increased its capability to provide search and rescue response and assistance to other emergency services such as Police, Fire and Ambulance.  

Today the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter in Busselton services the South West region across the peak summer period and returns for key holiday periods such as Easter when the region is at its busiest.  It undertakes coastal surveillance patrols from Bunbury to Augusta and responds to emergency incidents across the entire region. The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Busselton is another step in realising the vision for Surf Life Saving Western Australia to improve public coastal safety in the South West. The South West coast is an isolated and treacherous environment that is home to a rapidly growing local population and is a popular tourist area that accounts for a high proportion of coastal related deaths each year.

Our vision

The vision of SLSWA Westpac Lifesaver Rescue helicopters is:

  1. A key provider of aviation services; namely

  • coastal surveillance;
  • search and rescue; and
  • emergency first responder services

  2. Provide an aviation service which is of intrinsic value to the community and based on effective practice and innovation; and
  3. Integrated into Surf Life Saving coastal public safety and Western Australia’s emergency management strategy

Our crew

The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopters are manned by both full time and volunteer crew – which ensures a blend of experience to keep the operations safe – and an opportunity for lifesavers to transfer their skills from the beach to the air. The highly trained crews are on the lookout for vessels and people in distress, incidents on beaches, rip currents and marine life, including sharks. Meet our crew.

Our patrols

The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopters play a crucial role in coastal safety and identifying emergencies. One of the roles of these aerial patrols is to keep watch for sharks and other marine life. With the helicopters' manoeuvrability; good viewing options; ability to fly at varying heights and to hover over potential sightings, the shark spotting service is well equipped to protect beach goers. Both helicopters are fitted with GPS technology that can be used to pin point potential sightings; a public address / siren to alert swimmers; and the latest communication equipment to alert surf lifesavers on the beach, Water Police, the Department of Fisheries and relevant local government authorities. To see a great example of how the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopters detect sharks and warn beachgoers, check out this video of a Great White sighting as it swam towards a group of body boarders and swimmers.

Flight times and length of patrols will depend on a range of factors including weather conditions, tasking, beach usage and events and other environmental factors. The helicopters generally patrol for two hours per operational day, however this will be determined by the factors listed above and flight times may vary from day to day.

The helicopters are on stand-by to respond quickly to assist our lifesavers and lifeguards as required; as well as providing support to emergency services by conducting search and rescue both on water and land.

For the 2015/16 season, the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Fremantle is on standby 365 days a year for emergency response and patrol, and will officially commence operations from 5th September to April 30; while the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Busselton will operate from 27 September 2015 to 30 April 2016.

Help our helicopter service

We've partnered with Everyday Hero, so supporting Surf Life Saving WA and our helicopters is now easier than ever. Everyday Hero allows you to create your own fundraising page to start supporting the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter service. Find out more.

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