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RAC Rescue Helicopters


RAC Rescue provides vital ​​search and rescue and critical care medical services to people 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The crew of RAC Rescue have saved hundreds of lives and flown close to 9,000 missions.

RAC Rescue was established as the State's only emergency rescue helicopter service in August 2003. In February 2016, a second RAC Rescue helicopter commenced service. The two helicopters combined now have the ability to cover 95 per cent of the State’s population.

The RAC Rescue helicopter service is managed by DFES and is funded by the Western Australian (WA) State Government with Royal Automobile Club (RAC) WA as the principal sponsor. CHC Helicopters Australia is contracted to provide the helicopter and air crew.

Based at Jandakot and Bunbury, the crews include a pilot, air crew officer and St John Ambulance critical care paramedic. During critical hospital transfers a doctor may also be on board.

This vital air service transports critical care specialists to an incident and airlifts the injured to the nearest or most suitable hospital.

The service also provides essential transport between WA hospitals.

Since inception RAC Rescue has has flown 145,157 kilometres and spent more than 899 hours in the air. It has responded to a diverse range of significant emergencies throughout WA including major traffic crashes, searches, and cliff and sea rescues.

Working alongside the Perth-based helicopter, the second Bunbury-based helicopter not only benefits community members in the South West, but also increases the capacity of the vital emergency rescue helicopter service to respond to patients across our vast State.

Have you or a loved one been rescued by the RAC Rescue helicopter?

If you’d like to share your story or meet the crew involved in your rescue, we would love to hear from you.

You can contact us by sending an email with your details to media@dfes.wa.gov.au




Snapshot o​f RAC Rescue

  • Is WA’s only 24/7 emergency rescue helicopter service
  • Is ready to respond twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  • Can reach areas where road ambulances cannot and often halves response times
  • Has a ‘primary’ mission to fly critical care specialists direct to an incident and then transports the injured directly to hospital.
  • Has a ‘secondary’ role to provide essential hospital transfers.
  • Responds to a wide range of emergencies across much of WA including traffic accidents, searches, and cliff and sea rescues.
  • Has an operating range of 200 kilometres from Perth, covering 90 percent of WA’s population.
  • RAC Rescue’s crew comprised of a pilot, air crewman and critical care paramedic are based at Jandakot and Bunbury Airports.
  • The pilot and air crewmen are contracted through CHC Helicopters Australia.
  • The critical care paramedic is contracted through St John’s Ambulance.
  • Flights can be airborne to an incident within 15 minutes of receiving a call from St John Ambulance.

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Funding and sponsorship

The cost of providing an emergency rescue helicopter service is significant but its value lies in saving lives and reducing patient trauma.

The service is managed by DFES and funded by the State Government and sponsored by RAC.

The State Government highly values the service and provides more than $5 million in funding annually. The second helicopter has been funded through an allocation of $29.95 million over three years from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Royalties for Regions program. The remaining funding is sought through sponsorship.

In December 2003 RAC became the sponsor of the service and the Perth-based helicopter was officially named RAC Rescue.

The Bunbury-based helicopter was officially launched in late January 2016, with RAC as the sponsor.

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Accessing the service

While emergency search and rescue is the core business of RAC Rescue it can also be used by authorised emergency agencies and medical providers for other purposes, such as rapid deployment of personnel to emergencies.

Authorised agencies include:

  • DFES and all the emergency bodies DFES supports
  • Australian Maritime Safety Authority
  • WA Police

Where appropriate, the emergency helicopters can also provide additional capability for other aerial services, such as air reconnaissance mission.

The primary role of RAC Rescue above all is preservation of life and this purpose takes precedence over any other type of mission.

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Community events and training exercises

RAC Rescue takes part in a limited number of community events and training exercises. As a general guide, there must be a benefit to the effectiveness or efficiency of the emergency rescue helicopter service.

To request RAC Rescue for a special event or training exercise, please download and complete an Event Request Form (PDF). For specifications on suitable landing sites and safety guidelines please read the Safety Procedures at Community Events (PDF).

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About the crew

RAC Rescue has the very best people involved and the latest state of the art equipment to back them up.

Each helicopter is crewed by a pilot, rescue crew personnel and a St John Ambulance critical care paramedic. During critical hospital transfers a doctor may also be on board.

CHC Helicopters is contracted by DFES to provide the helicopter and flight crew. CHC Helicopters is the largest supplier of multiengine, emergency search and rescue, medical helicopter services in Australia.

RAC Rescue and the crews are based at Jandakot and Bunbury Airports and they can be airborne and on their way to an incident within 15 minutes of receiving a call.

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