WHILE many of us spent 2021 indoors, the crew at the New England North West's Westpac Rescue Helicopter base marked a bumper year, called to lifesaving missions nearly every single day.
Rescues, transfers and searches helped to clock up more than 420 missions for the crew based in Tamworth last year.
With no shortage of missions to choose from, looking back on 2021 pilot Dylan Cross and aircrewmen Sean Maher and Jamie Yeo reflected on their most memorable jobs.
Taking incredibly sick patients for lifesaving treatments at hospitals across the state, responding to serious farming accidents or combing dense bushland in searches kept the crews busy nearly every day of the year.
But, for Mr Maher and Mr Cross, two rescues at Ellenborough Falls stuck out in their minds.
In difficult terrain, the crews had the unique task of winching two separate patients trapped at the bottom of the falls to safety.
Mr Cross said hovering the chopper for 15 minutes while the crew extracted the patients allowed him and his colleagues to put their skills and training to the test.
"Our doctor, who has been doing this job for a long time, it was actually only his very first operational winch extraction," Mr Cross said.
"The excitement, joy, and fulfilment on his face ... he was on a high for a solid week afterwards."
For Mr Maher it was the backdrop to his rescue - a 200-metre waterfall, that made the mission so memorable.
"It's really beautiful scenery," he said.
While helping NSW Police and paramedics locate two young teenagers near Mudgee was a stand out job for Mr Yeo.
Boasting night vision goggles, in pitch black, windy conditions, Mr Yeo battled heavy rain to assist in the search.
"You've got all these things fighting you," he said.
But Mr Yeo said to find out the teens were located safe and sound made it all worth it.
"We are really invested in everyone we go to," he said.
Mr Yeo said it was important to remember the everyday, ordinary tasks the crew carry out that make the serious missions possible.
From refuelling and servicing the chopper, packing and cleaning equipment or extensive planning, Mr Cross said 2021 truly was a team effort.
Looking forward to the new year, Mr Yeo said he hoped to see more community interaction.
While the base was able to host virtual fundraising events, school tours and the charity ball were put on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"We wouldn't be here without the community," Mr Yeo said.
"It's been very difficult for us but we are very excited about things on the horizon changing."
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