Westpac Rescue Helicopter Chief Pilot Celebrates Flying Milestone

Written by: WRHS, 13 Sep 2019

Westpac Rescue Helicopter Chief Pilot Celebrates Flying Milestone

A milestone today for Westpac Rescue Helicopter Chief Pilot Mike de Winton who is celebrating 40 years flying, 20 of those with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service. 

Since starting his flying career in 1979 with the British Navy College, Mike’s earlier work included extensive flying and instructor duties through Europe and the Middle East and active duty during the Falklands and Gulf conflicts in 1982. 


He then flew Search and Rescue missions in Cornwall from 1983-85, before time with the British Navy from 1985-87.
From 1987-92 Mike continued as a Helicopter Instructor, with operational duties in Northern Island (UK), Gulf War 1 and Norway Artic Training Cell Instructing survival and helicopter operations.  
Then from 1992-94 he continued his instructional role with Central Flying School, instructing instructors, before duties in Northern Island, Bosnia, Kurdistan and Northern Iraq from 1994-98.
On immigrating to Australia in 1998, Mike continued his flight instructor role in Brisbane, before becoming Senior Base Pilot integral to the setup and commencement of marine pilot transfers for the Port of Newcastle in 1999-2000. 


In January 2000, Mike joined the Westpac Rescue helicopter Service as a Line Pilot, becoming Chief Pilot in 2010. 
With over 6000 flying hours with the Service, Mike has also been the Training and Checking Pilot for the Service, conducting regular simulator training programs for Service Pilots in Sweden. 

With over 6000 flying hours with the Service, Mike has also been the Training and Checking Pilot for the Service, conducting regular simulator training programs for Service Pilots in Sweden. 
He led the introduction and training of NVG (Night Vision Goggles) and flew the first operational mission for the Service using NVG in 2007 and between 2014-17 and more recently led the operations team into the new Westpac Rescue Helicopter Northern NSW contract with four new AW139 aircraft. 


From his time with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, Mike’s most memorable mission was in 2001, when the yacht ‘Loco’ capsized in a storm off Newcastle. Mike led the mission to save the crew, locating and rescuing two crew from the yacht who were in a life raft. 


When asked about his lengthy career, Mike simply attributed it to a love of flying and a passion for helping others.

“I love to fly and to have the opportunity to do that with the variety and complexity of missions conducted, whilst helping change people’s lives by making a valuable contribution to the community, is extremely rewarding,”
“Being part of a community organisation and working with other service providers such as NSW Ambulance and NSW Health, along with the team here including the flight operations and engineering staff, as well as the administration, fundraising team and our volunteers, all make this role a pleasure.”


Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service CEO Richard Jones was understandably full of praise for the Chief Pilot.

“Our Service is only possible due to the support of our community and the quality and depth of experience of our team, both on the ground and in the air.” 

“Mike is testimony to that, with a lengthy career spanning 40 years, 20 of those with us and we are extremely fortunate as a team and as a community, to have a pilot of Mike’s experience, commitment and passion leading our flight crew.” 

About the Service:
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service was established in 1975 as a weekend beach patrol and through community support and fundraising it became a critical service that operates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week from four bases in Belmont, Broadmeadow, Tamworth and Lismore. Today it delivers aeromedical search, rescue and inter-hospital transfers to care for communities from north of the Hawkesbury River, up to the Queensland border. Along with the Pilot and Aircrew Officer, every primary response misson today leave with a dedicated NSW Ambulance Paramedic, NSW Health Doctor and depending on the needs of each patient the team may include specialist nursing professionals. The Service is jointly funded by the NSW Govenment, coporate partnerships and community support ensuring that the Rescue Helicopter can continue flying 24-7.