HE’S the familiar face behind the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, but after almost 15 years in Tamworth, Barry Walton has bid the area a fond farewell.
But he’s the first to admit it’s not goodbye for good.
The former helicopter crewman has been part of the rescue chopper service for 39 years, in fact, right from the beginning.
He used to pilot the early helicopters when it was just a beach patrol in the Hunter area, but as the years clocked on, it’s become something much more.
“The helicopter has been the difference between life and death,” he told The Leader.
“Without the fast movement of the aircraft there are possibly some people that might not be here.”
This week, the marketing manager and regular fundraising rider packed his bags and his house and returned to Newcastle for bigger and better things as the chopper service prepares for the tender bid to secure the aero medical contract for 10 years.
“The most rewarding thing about being involved in something like this is you have a lifesaving machine and it’s working for the community,” he said.
“It’s been there for the community and it’s a community service.”
The rescue chopper has completed more than 2000 missions and works round the clock on call for any emergency or patient transfer that might unfold.
Barry first started travelling up to Tamworth in 1996 and made the permanent shift in 2000 – something he said he never looks back on.
“The community should be very proud of what they have here and without their support we wouldn’t be here today,” he said.