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Aussie helicopter rescue service clocks up eight years with Gannet

“Customer support has always been one of Lundin’s strong points.” User Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service’s verdict on Lundin’s Gannet 3 maintenance software


Always be there for the community, delivering the highest standard of aeromedical and rescue services to those in need.” That’s the mission statement of the Northern New South Wales Helicopter Rescue Service (NNHRS), which has been delivering search and rescue services for nearly half a century.mixed fixed wing and rotary fleet posed an additional challenge.


For the past eight of those years, NNHRS has been accompanied in its operations by the “Lundin Gannet family”, as it likes to call it. Also known as Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, in recognition of its naming rights sponsor, the Westpac Banking Corporation, it first began using the Gannet software system to manage its maintenance operations in 2014 and is currently in the process of migrating from Gannet 2 to Gannet 3. Incidentally, Westpac has sponsored the Service continuously since 1975, an incredible partnership.


Today a New South Wales Ambulance Critical Care Paramedic along with Doctors and Nurses accompany the Pilot and Aircrew Officer on missions, to ensure the very best in medical care is being taken direct to the patient.

Sean Ramsay, Maintenance Controller, explains: “Under our partnership with New South Wales Ambulance, we operate four Leonardo Helicopters AW139 aircraft from three line-level bases and one depot-level base facility throughout the northern parts of New South Wales.

Our Continuing Airworthiness Management Organisation (CAMO) and maintenance teams are eagerly embracing the new software which has many improvements from the previous Gannet 2 version.

We are currently on version 25. However we are about to have this upgraded to the latest version, which will add many more improvements and features.

Ramsay particularly likes the ability to provide feedback to Lundin on ideas for product improvement, as well as reporting issues as they arise. “These are always well received and promptly actioned,” he says.

“Customer support has always been one of Lundin’s strong points and one of the reasons why we are so happy with the service and product the team provides. Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service is excited at what is yet to come for Gannet 3, and we look forward to being part of its ongoing success.”

An example of how the Gannet team is ready to work with customers like NNHRS is provided by the operator’s requirement to carry out some main rotor head and swash plate checks “off-wing”, by removing the components form the aircraft and transporting them to another base. The in-house maintenance capability of Gannet 3 enables the operator to carry out these inspections at another location, which was not possible using Gannet 2.

NNHRS first moved over to Gannet in 2014 to seek resilience and accuracy in the product. Ramsay and colleagues visited Atlantic Airways, in the Faroe Islands, recently to see Gannet 3 in operation. Ramsay identifies customer support, powerful filtering, and flexibility as the key attributes of Gannet 3 that make it the system of choice. While the aim is to move towards exclusive use of Gannet 3 swiftly, the ability to have both systems open at once on separate PCs and for each system to simultaneously update the other is a major plus.

An illustration of the flexibility of the system can be found in Gannet’s ability to manage “penalty calculations” on various components on the AW139, based around operational factors, such as stop-starts in high wind speeds.
Such events are recorded in the pilot’s journey log and Gannet automatically calculates the impact on the maintenance and inspection schedule, because the formulae are incorporated in the software. “A lot of other software systems are not capable of this,” says Ramsay.

He added: “Not that long ago we conducted an exercise to look at different software systems to compare them with Gannet. With pretty much all the questions we asked, the answer was ‘No, but Gannet can’. It’s an amazing difference and that gives us confidence that we have chosen the right software.”

NNHRS’s funding comes from a variety of sources, including public support, the state of New South Wales (via the state’s health and ambulance services), its sponsor, Westpac, and other businesses. “We are so thankful for the continued and valued support we receive,” says Ramsay.

NNHRS missions can mostly be summarised as either “pre hospital emergency” or “inter hospital transfer”, with the former comprising search and rescue missions and the latter, patient transfers between medical facilities, in which helicopter operations score heavily ahead of fixed-wing transfers, which will also require a ground transfer component.

The service’s community support model means that no questions need to be asked when a rescue is carried out as – regardless of whether the patient is not insured for health care or rescue.

As a snapshot of the extent of the service’s operations, in June and July 2022 it carried out 242 missions from its bases at Belmont, Tamworth and Lismore, while in June, crews responded to 51 pre-hospital emergencies.

Earlier, in February and March the service played a major role when severe flooding hit the north of New South Wales and flight hours increased considerably, recalls Ramsay. “It’s quite a challenge because it throws your maintenance plans up in the air.”

One of the most significant moments in the service’s history was in 2007 when the “Pasha Bulker” storm hit the coast of south-east Australia, causing $1.6 billion damage. NNHRS winched 22 crew members off the 76,000-tonne Japanese Pasha Bulker bulk carrier to safety in 100kph winds after the ship ran aground at Nobbys Beach, Newcastle. The ship was eventually refloated but its 19-tonne rudder was recovered from the seabed and is now a beachside memorial artwork.

“Every life we save and every person we assist, provides a reminder of the critical role we play in our community,” says Ramsay.