About Life Flight

Life Flight – Saves time. Saves lives. Creating a better way

On one of Wellington’s darkest days, a vision for Life Flight was born.

In 1968, Cyclone Giselle ravaged New Zealand while the Wahine passenger ferry attempted its regular crossing between the North and South Islands. As the ship battled through the violent storm, it was driven into the Barrett Reef and, after rescue attempts failed, the order was given to abandon ship. As the crowds attempted to make their way to safety, 51 people lost their lives.

On Wellington’s coast, a local plumber, Peter Button, watched the destruction unfold. As he witnessed the Wahine passengers perish so close to shore he said, “there has to be a better way.” He realized that, with a helicopter, more lives could have been saved. And so, in the wake of tragedy, came a call to action that would shape the future of New Zealand air rescue.

In 1975, with the help of neurosurgeon Dr Russell Worth, and support from the community, Peter and Russell raised enough money to purchase a rescue helicopter. Taking to the skies, the Life Flight charity was born.

Over time, Life Flight’s fleet would grow to include an Air Ambulance Plane, as well as gaining sponsorship that would transform their helicopter into a Westpac Rescue Helicopter – the first of its kind in New Zealand.

Operating 24/7, 365 days a year, more than 30,000 people have been helped by Life Flight.

 Help when it’s needed most

New Zealand’s rugged landscape means many people live in remote areas and even short distances can take a long time by road. Combine this with the fact that specialist medical care is only available at select hospitals around the country and transport by air is often the only option. Life Flight is prepared for all such emergency situations.

Their Westpac Rescue Helicopter covers a region including the lower North Island and the upper South. When speed is crucial, or a location is difficult to access, the rescue chopper can be the difference between life and death.

Just the sound of the helicopter is often enough for someone in a difficult situation to feel relief. “My heart jumped when I heard the distinctive sound of the rotor blades.”