ABOVE Perth’s beaches, from Yanchep to Mandurah and out to Rottnest Island, the Surf Life Saving helicopter crew are Perth’s eyes in the sky.
At the controls of the Italian-built Agusta A119 Koala is experienced pilot of 33 years Andy Jankowski, who after joining the crew in June is looking forward to his first peak rescue season.
“I have had no rescues since the season started – long may it continue,” he said.
“Being based here in Fremantle (Rous Head), we get the quickest response.
“As soon as we get airborne we log in with the Water Police. They always know where we are.”
With an endurance flight time of three hours and the capability to travel up to 300km/h, Aviation Services manager Peter Scott said the team were able to be the first on the scene and determine the need for additional assistance.
“We’re able to give feedback straight away, so it reduces the impact on other rescue resources,” he said.
Mr Scott said while the number of sharks sighted on SLS patrols had increased, so had the crew’s flying time.
“It’s hard to say whether there are more sharks or because we’re flying more that we’re seeing more,” he said.
Rescue swimmer Cameron Coulson said it was important people stayed safe at the beach by swimming between the flags and realising that just because the helicopter was in the area did not mean a shark was nearby.
“People see us and think there’s a shark there but that’s not necessarily why we’re there,” Mr Coulson said.
“If we see a shark we’ll sound the siren if we think that people could be in danger.”
Mr Scott said people could download the SLS Beach Safe App for their phone to receive live updates on Perth beaches, including hazards, shark alerts and patrol times.