LifeFlight Australia’s helicopter crews are well known for saving human lives but now they have the capability to safely rescue beloved, furry family members too, including from the Toowoomba base.
In an Australian-first, LifeFlight Engineering has created a purpose-built Animal Rescue Capsule (ARC) which can be used to rescue, winch and transport pets securely from life-threatening situations, such as floods.
Group Head of Operations Yvette Lutze, who helped develop the ARC, said it offers a fit-for purpose option for crews to airlift suitable pets.
“There’s nothing more challenging or upsetting for our crews and for us to have to have that conversation with someone.
They’ve just lost their house, they’ve lost everything, and now you’re asking them to leave their animal behind,” she said.
“Animals are part of our family, they’re a part of my family.
“What we wanted to do was to provide as many options as we possibly could to ensure that we could keep the pet owners LifeFlight better equipped to save animals and the pets together, when it is safe to do so.”
Recently, LifeFlight crew members familiarised themselves with the new equipment during a skills training day in Toowoomba, with Base Lead Scott Nicholls bringing along two paw-fect Golden Retriever siblings, Amber and Barney to help them out.
The static winch training on the ground gave crew the opportunity to practice maneuvering Amber into the capsule, raising her safely and loading her into the aircraft before securing the capsule for flight.
Aerial winch training, with weights inside instead of animals, was a further opportunity to learn about hoisting the new gear.
The aptly named ARC was invented, after crews rescued a Noah’s ark-worth of pets, as part of the multi-agency emergency response to catastrophic flood events across Queensland and Northern New South Wales in 2022.
Crews directly assisted more than 100 people, indirectly assisted many more and saved 22 dogs from flooded properties.
In the past and during the disasters from early 2022, equipment bags and Child Rescue Capsules were often used to execute animal winch rescues, but they were not the ideal, permanent solution.
This article appeared in On Our Selection News, 1 June 2023.