The PHI Aviation team based in Western Australia undertook an extensive search and rescue (SAR) operation over nine days in early January, rescuing a total of 134 people – including two babies.
No two days – or rescues – are the same for our crew. Our SAR work operates 24/7 and spans both offshore and inland emergencies. We are called in to undertake emergency rescues, respond to health emergencies and provide transportation to hospitals and undertake search operations both on and offshore.
This time, we responded to the state of emergency declared by the Western Australian government in response to the one-in-100-year flooding event experienced in the Kimberley, where many people were stranded and cut off from dry land by the extensive flooding.
The efforts took more than 30 hours of flying as our crews battled the storm and floods in the area to meet the needs of the community.
Aside from safely rescuing and transferring people to dry land –including two babies – PHI also flew resources from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) into the flood zone to aid relief efforts.
The operation is believed to be one of the largest and most prolonged emergency response taskings ever performed by a commercial helicopter operator and the success of the rescue operation was due to the incredible effort of our people and the support of our partners.
With the support of our commercial partners, we were able to quickly divert resources to the flood zone to rescue those stranded in the flooding – many of whom were children.
PHI has been operating in Western Australia since 1980 and currently has operating bases in Broome, Karratha and Truscott, with operations from a new base in Exmouth due to start in March 2023.
We regularly provide support to Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and completed a number of critical rescue operations throughout 2022, including at Horizontal falls and off the coast of WA from its Broome and Karratha bases.
An intensive training program ensures our SAR Pilots and Technical Crew, who operate in the cabin are always rescue-ready. Becoming one of the SAR Technical Crew requires dedication, determination and a good level of physical fitness, which is regularly tested with the ongoing swimming and fitness testing program.
Our crews also undertake Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (TBOSIET). This course involves a series of offshore safety elements, including Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET), firefighting, smoke/zero visibility ship escape and Underwater Emergency Breathing System (UEBS) training.
The learning never stops, with the crew also undertaking training in the operation of the forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera and night vision goggles (NVG), along with medical training, crew resource management training, aeronautical radio operations, SAR observer and aircraft voice-marshalling training also involved as part of SAR training.