Air Rescue and air ambulance services

GCH Aviation is the proud provider and operator of full-time, professional air rescue and air ambulance operations for the Canterbury, West Coast, Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough Regions as well as air ambulance services throughout New Zealand.


We have achieved a world-class, professional air rescue service through a cooperative partnership with The Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue TrustThe Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust, District Health Boards, The New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre and nationwide emergency services.

These partnerships are sponsored by Westpac Banking Corporation in Canterbury and on the West Coast by New Zealand Coal and Carbon Ltd (NZCC).

Our facilities include modern hangars in Canterbury, Greymouth and Nelson housing maintenance workshops, training and briefing rooms, with secure storage for specialised medical and rescue equipment. On-site facilities include re-fuelling, night operation lighting and the latest communication equipment for 24/7 coverage.

GCH Aviation also maintains and operates the New Zealand Flying Doctor Service – a fixed-wing air ambulance operating from Christchurch Airport and Nelson Airport, transporting patients from regional centres to advanced medical facilities throughout New Zealand, including the Chatham Islands.

Our medical teams consist of intensive care paramedics in addition and crew employed directly by GCH Aviation. These crew are crucial to the successful outcome of rescue missions.

GCH Aviation provides these services in conjunction with Helicopters Otago Ltd, through a joint venture company called HEMS NZ Limited for the South Island region.

This air ambulance service is the only one in the region activated through the country’s 111 Emergency Service through the St John control room. It is this 24 hour, 7 days a week rapid response system that ensures effective and immediate deployment of rescue and air ambulance crews. This service is also used by the region’s Fire Fighting Service for fire control, by Police Search and Rescue and by the NZ Rescue Co-Ordination Centre.

Our compliance with air ambulance and air rescue standards are regularly audited by Telarc. Both companies providing these services hold high-level safety awards for more than 40 years of safe operations without harm to self or others.

Our Westpac Rescue Helicopters based in Christchurch are the new Airbus H145 and our BK-117-B2. These helicopters have global reputations as reliable and versatile aircraft ideally suited to rescue operations.

Each year the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter responds to over 500 missions throughout the Nelson, Tasman, Marlborough and Buller regions, making this rescue helicopter a vital service within the community.

The New Zealand Flying Doctor Service is a medical transfer service operating from Christchurch Airport, transporting patients from regional centres to advanced medical facilities throughout New Zealand.