Engineering students to the rescue

When the Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust needed to upgrade essential equipment it turned to CPIT’s engineering students for help.

St John/Westpac Rescue Helicopter paramedic, Shane Lynch, knows as well as anyone that there’s no room for mistakes during a rescue operation. He says rescue crew members undertake regular training exercises to perfect their skills but due to the prohibitive cost of flying many exercises are carried out using simulators.

When the organisation’s winch simulator was reaching the end of its usefulness, Lynch – who knew that CPIT students seek real-world applications for the practical component of their training – approached the institute’s engineering department for help. Jared Kleinjan and Reuben Wallace, both studying the Bachelor of Engineering (mechanical), volunteered for the project.

“We see it as them helping us and us helping them,” Lynch says. “It’s a good project for them to put their names to and it’s interesting for us because they’ve come in with new ideas.” Kleinjan and Wallace are creating a replica of the helicopter’s winch system, allowing the crew to train using a winch simulator. “That means when we get flight time, our training is more targeted and we can make the most of the time with drills and pushing our skills and techniques,” says Lynch.

The Police, Surf Lifesaving and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter paramedics will all use the winch simulator for training purposes.

Rob Dantzer, Supervising Engineering Tutor at CPIT, says the project provided value to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter team while enabling the students to put their skills into practice. “The training that the Winch Systems Training Aid provides will help reduce the risk, time and costs of winch extractions. This project also provides students a great opportunity to practise and demonstrate their technical problem solving and teamwork skills in a real-life setting, including deadlines and budgets.”