Todd Mulville - Standardisation Crewman
Terry Mulville, 67, was Crew Chief when the-then Bank of NSW rescue helicopter service commenced in 1975. After three years in that role he moved up to General Manager and retained that position for seven years. Terry’s son Todd Mulville, 31, has followed in his father’s footsteps and is now Standardisation Crewman. This is a full transcript of a recent interview.
“Originally it was the old Bank of NSW rescue helicopter. In the original year (1975) there were 12 of us and I was 2IC or Crew Chief and I held that role for the first three years of the Service and then I became the Director of the Service, or the General Manager. I was the boss for seven years and then I retired from that role in March 1986.
Did you envisage where the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service would be after 40 years?
“I believed the sponsorship would continue and I thought it would expand. Back in the early days we did have a couple of opportunities to branch into bigger sponsorships, but short-term ones, so over the long run we’ve been very lucky we remained with Westpac because they’ve looked after the Service ever since.
“Once the service got going and developed so rapidly I had no doubts that it would continue into the long term and I had no doubts that it would develop into a much bigger service. I was lucky enough to go through the Bell 47 to the JetRanger to the LongRanger, but I also flew quite regularly in the Air Force Iroquois helicopters at Williamtown, which were the same body as the 412s being used now and was very envious of the space and the power that aircraft had.”
“Best memories were working with an unbelievably dedicated group of pilots and aircrew. In that first 10 years, everything was totally volunteer. And I includethe pilots in that, even though they were paid, because in those days there was only one pilot and he was on 24/7, which would be unheard of today. It was nothing for us to do a day on duty, reach the front gate at home only for the pager to go off, come back to the base and be out until midnight. So those pilots were as much volunteer as the air crew were.”
Sense of pride not only in relation to the early days, but also for how the Service has developed?
“I’m extremely proud of what we did. I’m a little bit biased, but I think most of the major milestones were achieved in that first 10 years. We developed the relationship with the ambulance paramedics and we were the first in Australia to do that. At the same time we were the first crews to be accepted into the hospitals to get basic and advanced first aid training so that we could do inter-hospital transfers with the old intensive care units at Royal Newcastle Hospital. And I’m extremely proud that my son has followed in my footsteps.”
Now we have the doctors on board. Do you still follow the advancements of the Service?
“The Service most certainly had to bring the doctors on board. I am a little bit biased I suppose with the fact that ambulance paramedics are trained very extensively and are very accustomed to working with trauma in the field. In my day, because the aircraft were so small, the Air Crewmen had to assist the paramedics. So we actually got blood on our hands and we got involved. The vast majority of those paramedics were exceptionally good at their job. But then having said that, we also did inter-hospital transfers with the intensive care guys from the Royal, and they were also very good, so we were very lucky.”
Was your father a role model?
“I was lucky enough that when I was a very young boy, Dad was still involved in the Service. I’ve always had the Service and its culture in my blood. As I grew up Dad became less involved with the Service, but we were never short of war stories.
“Having Dad there and hearing what he’d been through provided guidance for me. It was motivating for me to move into this role. I had other goals, with sport and things like that, but through my whole childhood this is secretly what I always wanted to do, as did my other brothers. The culture within my family is very much about this place. It was born and bred with Dad and that’s something I’m very proud about. I consider it a tremendous achievement to be in the role that he was in 40 years ago. I can be here doing what I’m doing now because of people like my father.”
Guidance for life generally? A good example has been set?
“Very much so. This place was born and bred and built on volunteers. They weren’t on the big dollars. They did it out of love and dedication. That laid the foundation and allowed it to grow into a world-class aeromedical operation. We owe a lot to Dad in particular and the other guys who served with him in those initial years. In saying that, there have been a lot of people who have worked with the Service right up until now.
“Dad’s also been very successful in not only developing the foundations for this organisation, but he’s been very successful in his business and that’s been something I’ve been able to sit back and look at all my way through school and as a young man. He’s always been there to offer advice and still is. To have him there, even when I went for this role I’m in now as the Standardisation Crewman, to be able to sit down and have a chat with Dad about where my career should go was invaluable. We did have a bit of disagreement over whether I was ready for this role. We had some big heart-to-hearts, he pushed me in the right direction, and I’ll be forever grateful.”
Best or significant memories?
“All the rescues tend to blend in, so I think it’s the friendships. Dad touched on it before. We are paid now, but I think the enthusiasm and the love of the place still hasn’t changed. I started here as a young kid, to a degree immature. I was only 18 and I spent four years as a casual just going from one shift to another, or week to week,and I got to fly with all the guys here … guys like Danny Morris and Graham Nickisson, who were students of Dad’s. And then I became a student of those guys, so that whole cycle of life is quite fascinating as well. The mateship,the ability to do something that I love, will be with me forever.”
Great war stories?
Unfortunately when Dad and I get together it usually ends up in an argument over who does the best jobs … Dad in his little Bell 47 and JetRanger compared to me in the multi-million dollar IFR-capable aircraft (instrument flight rules-capable aircraft can fly in most weather).But I stress, we wouldn’t be here without those foundations and those guys. I still believe we do the bigger jobs, but the platform was laid by individuals and their bravery and ability and commitment to be able to be in a positon to do those types of rescues.”
The key message?
Safety has taken total prominence and total dominance of the Service today, and it can’t be any other way. But to go back to Todd’s comments, in my day we saw a responsibility, as the only rescue helicopter in the area, to do our best to save lives. Sometimes we worked in a grey area and pushed ourselves and the safety parameters. Todd’s point is very relevant. He now has an aircraft that has everything that opens and shuts and we didn’t. We had a basically equipped aircraft with a turn-and-bank indicator and an altimeter and a couple of guysu sing their eyes, whereas these days it’s all done for them. There is a responsibility to endeavour to fulfil the role as best you can, but also as safely as you can.”
The contract for Northern NSW is impressive, but can’t continue without community support.
“This is an exciting time for the Service. We have new bases coming, we have brand new aircraft valued at nearly $20 million each, we have new training facilities, and new direction. The company is moving forward in leaps and bounds, especially with the awarding of the new contract. But, as it was at the inception, the community looks at this place as a symbol. All the public needs to do is see the red and yellow aircraft, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a 412 or a JetRanger. It is the symbol of what this place represents, and it will be with the Hunter and northern NSW forever. As long as we continue to be professional and engage with our community, which I think we do very well, particularly our marketing and admin staff, we’ll prosper and get better and better. We can’t survive without the community and at the end of the day the community gets the highest quality service we can provide.”
“I’d just like to stress the pride that I have in the first 10 years here. Normally we had 12 guys, sometimes down to 11, sometimes up to 13, but normally 12 guys. We had to put two on the aircraft every Saturday, two every Sunday, and two every public holiday. There were two in Royal Newcastle Hospital every Friday night for an intensive care shift, and one in the radio room every Saturday afternoon. Then the whole crew had to train together as a unit every Monday night. It was no shock to me that at least four guys lost their jobs over this Service, and several of them lost their marriages.
“I’m very, very committed to the memory of the dedication of those blokes over the first 10 years. A lot of milestones were reached … from working out of the ticket box and the toilet over at the International Sports Centre to the current headquarters. Getting the ground for the headquarters is a story in itself. We broke a record in Newcastle for the number of signatures we got on a petition to take to Newcastle Council to get this land (at Broadmeadow) because they had originally knocked us back. There are all those things that crop up in my mind and always remain in my mind.”
“We need to know where we’ve come from before we know where we are going, particularly in relation to all the hard work that everyone has done. This is a fantastic new contract and it has set a lot of people up. It’s delivering a world-class service to this community. But we are only here through the hardwork and dedication of a few. It’s a fantastic Service and I’m proud to have Dad involved 40 years down the track.”