Our Crew

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.

Cameron Fewtrell

Rescue Crewman

I have always held a deep respect for the emergency services and appreciated the variety that comes with Aviation EMS, as every day is different. As a result, my ambitions led me to the crew here at Capricorn Helicopter Rescue.

This is my first year with the organisation and I feel I have become part of the team. Everyone is eager to teach and show me how I can continue to build and improve on this new set of skills I am developing.

Some of my daily responsibilities include ensuring Helicopter fuel is pure and unaffected, checking aircrafts to ensure equipment is fitted and ready to be tasked and there are administration duties to complete before and after flights. The greatest emphasis is on remaining alert and ready to respond to any type of job, whether it is a motor vehicle accident, winch, search or even Hospital transfers.

My most memorable and challenging moment so far, was a recent winch off Kemp Hill. I was unable to use any of the usual rescue equipment as the cliff was too steep for proper footholds. We elected to use a rescue strop in order to complete the task because it was the only viable option at the time.

I enjoy the excitement every day brings, as you never know when you’re going to get called and each job has its own difficulties. But mostly, it is seeing the relief people have once they get to the hospital and realise they’re going to be okay, that is the most rewarding part.

Chris ‘Bones’ Manns


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.

Mark Priestley

Aircraft Engineer – Avionics

Family is a major driving force for Avionics Engineer Mark Priestley, citing the most difficult part of his 18 year career in aviation as the time spent away from home. So, when the chance to join the RACQ CapRescue team presented itself, Mark and his family were keen to jump on board – moving to Central Queensland from Adelaide. RACQ CapRescues’ reputation within the community, together with the variety that each day offers were a real selling point for Mark. The fact that the CapRescue base is only a stone’s throw away from one of Mark’s top three destinations – the Whitsunday’s was the final push he needed.

When on the job though it’s all business, with Mark bringing a wealth of knowledge to the team following a 17 year career with the Royal Australian Airforce. Trekking across the country and the globe hasn’t changed Mark’s perspective on the important things – like the great sense of achievement he feels when a helicopter, previously grounded takes flight after leaving his workshop.

Todd Robinson

Aircrew Officer

Having only been with the service a short time, I am relatively new to the  RACQ Capricorn Rescue crew. I am enjoying working in this great small team environment and helping the community.

My day-to-day responsibilities as an Aircrew Officer, are many and varied. From aircraft husbandry and configurations, to refueling, front left seat flight administration, winch operator duties, passenger briefing and safety, assistance to Critical Care Health Professionals, administration and any odd jobs required within the team.

As an Ex-Army Aircrewman of 6 years, I have performed multiple Humanitarian missions from Fiji to Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, as well as domestically. Assisting Fiji in the clean-up and recovery efforts after the cyclone in 2016, was an equally challenging and rewarding moment for me.

My role as an Aircrew Officer and those held by others in the RACQ Capricorn Rescue crew, are niche jobs that not everyone could do. Every day we are committed to making a difference in the lives of people in Central Queensland.

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.