Our Crew

Tom Burns

Rescue Crewman

I joined RACQ Capricorn Rescue after working as a professional lifeguard alongside the Westpac Helicopters in Lismore, NSW. Performing rescues in the ocean, many in conjunction with the rescue helicopter, which led me to my current role as Rescue Crewman. Working on a rescue helicopter has since brought out my inner passion for flying – nothing can beat it! I’ve found a role that not only lets me go flying but also do what I love.

My day to day responsibilities include checks on the aircraft and operational equipment, ensuring everything is in serviceable order. Throughout the day we keep up to date on administration and training which we are to maintain on a regular recency basis. Being that my job is so physically demanding, keeping fit is a priority. It ensures that I can perform my rescue crewman duties to the best of my ability. I make sure that I spend some time throughout the day exercising to maintain my current level of fitness. I usually go for a run, swim or get into the gym.

What I find I enjoy the most is the team dynamics of the job. Individually we have our own responsibilities but work together to get each job done. Working in an environment where every day can bring something different and helping those in need in various circumstances is highly rewarding.

My most memorable and challenging moment would have to be winching to a very small aft deck of a fishing vessel off the coast of Rockhampton. The size of the deck and its height above the back of the boat made for a tricky landing and patient retrieval. These challenges keep you coming back to work each day, proud of the work we do and keen to keep doing it.

The most rewarding moments are when patients come back to thank the team. After assisting someone through their time of need, getting them to the necessary medical facility and following their recovery, having them drop in really makes the job so much sweeter.


Joe Chandler

Aircraft Maintenance Engineer

I’m one of the Aircraft Maintenance Engineers here at RACQ Capricorn Rescue, and although I’m relatively new, I thoroughly enjoy my role within the organisation. My duties include maintaining both aircrafts by completing scheduled and unscheduled services as well as various admin tasks. I’ve always had an interest in aviation and commenced my engineering career in south east Queensland working on planes. I moved to Rockhampton after securing a contractor position with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, maintaining their fixed wing aeromedical aircrafts.

After only being with RACQ Capricorn Rescue for a short period of time, I have found the job to be very rewarding. It has allowed me to travel and meet with many different people within the aviation industry. It’s very fulfilling coming to work each day knowing I am contributing to a team that provides a lifesaving service to the community.


Paul Donaldson

Pilot

I’ve been flying in support of RACQ Capricorn Rescue since May 2016 after a 20 year career in the Australian Army. I’ve always had a fond interest in aviation since I was a young boy. I followed that passion throughout my military career. I always held an expectation that I would become a Rescue Helicopter pilot one day, as much of the training I had undertaken, and the roles and tasks of Army Aviation were well suited to the role of operating a rescue helicopter. I had always held a belief that it would be a very rewarding job helping and rescuing people in need and so far, it has been exactly that!

My primary responsibilities are transporting the on board medical team and crew to the scene of an incident or hospital and airlifting all on board to our destination safely. I am also responsible for confirming the airworthiness of the aircraft and role equipment at the commencement of my shift and after each rescue. I must also produce a flight plan, taking into consideration the performance and loading of the aircraft.

Helping people in need and getting them out of danger, or to the care they need expeditiously, is a really satisfying feeling.

My most challenging task was the winch rescue of a lady in her 60’s whom had suffered a stroke on a large cruise liner 85 nautical miles off the coast. Undertaking winching operations to vessels is always equal measures of exciting and nerve racking.

The most rewarding job I’ve undertaken so far was for a missing three-year-old boy in the Zilzie area. We were tasked to aide in the search for the young boy who had wandered off from the family home with his small Jack Russell. After a short time searching close to the coast line, we managed to find the young boy in good health, however, his little fur friend got scared by the helicopter and ran off. Luckily, he was found less than 24 hours later and reunited with the family.


Chris ‘Bones’ Manns

Pilot

My aviation career took off as a young pilot flying smaller choppers used for mustering across the top of Australia, from the Kimberly through to Cape York. This led to a job as a utility pilot carrying out roles in the areas of slinging power lines, firefighting and suppression, Customs surveillance, and Day Night Marine Pilot Transfers amongst many other things. When the opportunity presented itself to fly for RACQ Capricorn Rescue I applied and was lucky enough to secure a position within the organisation. I am pleased to have recently celebrated 10 years with RACQ Capricorn Rescue.

My primary role as a pilot is to transport the on board medical and air crew to the scene of the incident we have been tasked to. I really enjoy my role as it allows me to work with a dedicated team of professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds. The fact that my job also allows me to fly over the magnificent Capricorn region is something I sincerely enjoy.

Our role within the floods of 2011 and 2013 was a memorable time. The shear intensity of the great bodies of water across the region during those times is something I will never forget, resulting in some difficult missions to rescue the unfortunate people caught in them.

What I find most enjoyable about this job is that any of the missions we are tasked to means we are genuinely making a real and positive difference in someone’s life. Without us, the outcome for a lot of our patients, would be significantly different.


Jake Moore

Pilot/Base Manager

My career with RACQ Capricorn Rescue started back in 2006 as a dual qualified Aircrew and Rescue Crew Officer. I worked with the crew here in Rockhampton for a few years before the desire of becoming a pilot got too much and I decided to pursue gaining my Commercial Pilots License. After working all over Australia acquiring hours and experience, I returned to RACQ Capricorn Rescue in 2015 as a pilot.

What first drew me to the world of aviation and rescue was knowing I would have a job where no two days are same. I love that every day is totally different.

Depending on the tasking of the helicopter my day-to-day duties can vary. When we are tasked my primary responsibility is to transport the helicopter’s on board medical and rescue crew safely to people in need.  When I’m not flying, I’m looking after the day-to-day running of the helicopter base.

For a job that I love it’s hard to say what my favourite aspect is. Obviously the fact that I get to fly a helicopter is hard to beat, but genuinely making a difference to someone in need is very fulfilling. Every time we land on the hospital with a patient, knowing that our service has made a difference to their life is the most rewarding aspect to the job.

My most memorable moment since I’ve worked with CHRS would be a mission we were tasked to which consisted of searching for and locating a missing helicopter at night off Curtis Island.  The low visibility made it quite difficult, but we managed to get a positive result. Without the service, the outcome for the two gentlemen that we rescued could have been dire.


Patrick Norton

Senior Aircrew Officer (Check and Trainer)

Prior to starting with RACQ Capricorn Rescue as an Aircrew Officer I was in a similar role with the Australian Army, flying on Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters. I was deployed on flying operations in East Timor and Afghanistan before I was transferred to a civil emergency services position in Melbourne, which eventually led me back to my home town of Rockhampton where I became an Aircrew Officer with RACQ Capricorn Rescue.

My interest in aviation began from an early age watching the many aircrafts flying in and out of Rockhampton airport, from there I became interested in a career with the Army.

In my current role with RACQ Capricorn Rescue I am the Senior Aircrew Officer and Check and Trainer. My role is to conduct my normal line Aircrew Officer duties as well as conduct check and training for our Aircrew Officers, Rescue Crewman, Paramedics and Doctors who work on our helicopters. This include conducting all assessments for day/night land/water winching operations and managing the Aircrew/Rescue Crewman Officers.

What I find to be most rewarding about my position is that I am involved in rescue operations that make a genuine difference in a person’s life. I also enjoy the role of training and checking, ensuring all crew members remain qualified and current to perform helicopter winching.

Although I find this job to have its own challenges every day, a task that was quite different to the rest was the mission of performing a cliff rescue helicopter winch in Springsure a few years ago. It was a rescue that required thorough planning and skilled crew coordination to complete. The patient was rescued at last light from a cliff face with limited chance of rescue by ground services.


Dave Paterson

Aircrew Officer

I’ve been with RACQ Capricorn Rescue for over 7 years now and I couldn’t imagine loving any job as much as I love this one. I joined the service as an Aircrew Officer after completing 16 years of military service. During my time with the Army I spent 8 years working on helicopters so naturally I found the transition into the Emergency Services field quite easy. My role primarily consists of assisting the pilot with navigational and mission coordination as well as operating the winch and assisting the on-board medical crew at the scene of an incident.

Although I’ve had countless memorable days working with RACQ Capricorn Rescue, a certain mission that stands out is one of a winch rescue from the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship for an ill passenger. Although it wasn’t one of my more challenging missions it was definitely memorable, as we hovered 20 feet above the deck at 15 knots while winching the rescue and medical crews on board, it was definitely a day I won’t forget!

What I love most about this job is that you never know what the day has in store for you, one day you could be winching a patient off a cruise liner and the next you’re landing on a highway at the scene of a motor vehicle accident. Either way, you’re there helping those in need whatever the circumstances.


Shaun Pearce

Aircrew Officer

Since my commencement with RACQ Capricorn Rescue, I have found my job to be as equally challenging as it is rewarding. My main responsibilities as an Aircrew Officer are emergency patient retrieval from the scene of an incident or hospital and search and rescue missions. It is also an ACO’s job to conduct winching operations in difficult terrain and poor weather.

Prior to this role I had spent 14 Years in the Army, 4 years initially as an Aircraft Technician before transferring to Army Aviation as an Aircrewman where I have 10 Years flying experience on Blackhawk, MRH90, and Chinook Helicopters conducting Troop insertion/extraction and Air Medical evacuation.

What I enjoy most about this job is the opportunity to work in a team of aviation and medical professionals that know the importance of doing their job safely and efficiently. This allows us to provide a highly professional and vital service to the community under complex and challenging environmental situations.

My most memorable moment would be a Search and Rescue mission upon which we located two men after they had capsized their boat in rough seas. They had been in the ocean for 14 hours straight until finally coming to rest on an isolated island. We winched them to safety the next morning.

My most challenging moment was when the crew and I were the first to arrive on scene after a trawler sunk off the coast of Agnes Water claiming the lives of six crew members. It was the worst weather I had ever flown in and the conditions were atrocious to say the least. Knowing we couldn’t save them was heartbreaking. Luckily one crew member had survived.

I find every day in this job to be rewarding and I consider myself very lucky. Responding to an accident and knowing that you’re going to make a difference to someone’s life is very rewarding and comes with great job satisfaction.

 


Garth Snaidero

Rescue Crewman

I’ve been with RACQ Capricorn Rescue as a Rescue Crewman since 2012, after spending 8 years in Townsville as a rescue crewman on the EMQ Rescue Helicopter. Upon leaving high school, I was drawn to the Australian Defence Force and the opportunities it could lead to; and for as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by aviation, so the Army felt like a natural fit.

My duties as a Rescue Crewman include maintaining the aircrafts readiness, conducting passenger and patient briefings, assisting the on board Doctor and Paramedic on scene and conducting winch operations.

When I’m not on duty serving my community, I love spending time on the water with my family and friends, you’ll regularity find me on my boat around Great Keppel Island.

I’ve definitely had a lot of highlights throughout my career but one of the more memorable missions would be a task we conducted in 2014 where our crew rescued a family of five from a sinking boat off the coast of Yeppoon. It was quite a traumatic experience for the family so once they were safely on board and receiving medical treatment, they had so much gratitude for saving their lives. It’s moments like that that remind us why we do the job we do and why we love it so much.

I enjoy the sense of purpose this role gives me and having the opportunity to genuinely help people who are going through one of the worst days of their lives. I relish working within a highly trained, professional and motivated, close-knit team who all share the love of the job.


Derek Tessmann

Base Chief Engineer

My role with RACQ Capricorn Rescue is as Base Chief Engineer. In October of 2019 I will celebrate 10 years in this position. My daily duties include monitoring the aircraft’s worthiness to operate, daily inspections and data recording, planning and carrying out aircraft maintenance and servicing, logistics management, inspection, service and repair of the aircraft equipment as well as overall OH&S.

I started working on helicopters at the age of 13 assisting the Engineers at a company my father was the Base Manager and Pilot for. At age 15 I was the youngest person in Australia to ever commence an apprenticeship as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer. For the following 15 years I provided helicopter maintenance and ground support for various projects and industries throughout remote Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea.

I was always drawn to a career in aviation as it’s in my blood. As a kid, my father would fly my family and I around in fixed wing aircrafts and helicopters during his time in various roles as a pilot. What I love most about this job is the challenge! Every day is busy, and I must remain organised to keep on top of the work.

As the Base Chief Engineer, I am responsible for ensuring the aircraft is worthy and safe to fly, and each time the chopper leaves the ground, I have a sense of pride that I have contributed to potentially saving someone’s life.


Mitch Vernon

Senior Pilot

I have been with RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service for over 5 years now, and I have loved every moment of it. With over 30 years experience as a professional pilot, I have been lucky enough to fly in many diverse areas all around the world. Including Antarctica and the Middle East, performing a variety of different tasks such as movie filming, aerial crane, firefighting, offshore, VIP and emergency medical services.

As Senior Pilot I am operationally responsible for day to day flight operations. The fact that we never know what is going to happen when the phone rings is what I love about my job. Although every day and every job is something different, I know that each task provides a lifesaving service to my community – that’s very rewarding.

One of my most memorable tasks during my time with RACQ Capricorn Rescue was when we were tasked to rescue a young woman that had slipped down the face of Virgin Rock in Springsure back in 2015. She clung to a tiny branch growing out of the cliff face rocks for several hours.


Robert Walgers

Aircrew Officer

Originally from Albany in Western Australia, I moved to Rockhampton during 2018 to join RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue as an Aircrew Officer. Having spent the past 12 years in the Navy, the majority of the time in the same position as I am now, I felt this was a great transition for me.

My primary duties are ensuring that the helicopter is prepared for any rescue that could arise as well as completing general tasks set by the base manager. What first drew me to aviation is how fluid the environment is. It can change at a moment’s notice, so you always have to be prepared to adapt.

What I find most satisfying about my role is that I know I’m doing a job that has a vital purpose. The patients that we rescue and the people within the communities that we service genuinely appreciate what we do.

The most rewarding aspect of my job is knowing that every rescue is helping someone receive the best possible care that can be provided to them.