A Century of Saving Lives

8th, March, 2024

They are arguably three of the most recognizable faces on board the Westpac Rescue Helicopter across Northern NSW and they have just collectively clocked up a century of helping save local lives.

Peter ‘Cookie’ Cook, Graham ‘Nicko’ Nickisson and Glen ‘Rampo’ Ramplin are in an elite ‘100 Club’ that has touched thousands of lives across Northern NSW during their careers.

“Thousands of hours emergency medical services flown, assisting thousands of people on their worst day and giving many of them a second chance at life, has created a ripple effect amongst family and friends of those patients, meaning the trio have had a positive effect on many, many thousands of lives right across Northern NSW – that is a wonderful achievement,” Westpac Rescue Helicopter Acting CEO James Lawrence said.

Pilot Peter Cook took extended leave from the Service in January this year, that will take him into retirement after 33 years with the Service. Three decades of doing anything is an accomplishment, but 33 years as a Pilot commands respect and Cookie has it in spades from all corners of the Service. He was recognised as a true leader, calm under pressure, great safe pilot, valued the role and input of the crewmen, inspired the aircrew and created a great culture with a close-knit group comprising of Pilots and Aircrew Officers and was always the voice of reason.

He was an early champion for safety, integrating safety systems into operations and realized the benefits of a functioning Safety Management System to both individuals and the company – a legacy that continues to this day.

He had a vision for the Service, and what we have today is due in no small part to Cookie – leaving behind a huge legacy in the foundation of the modern service.

Nicko is currently in his 42nd year of service, the majority of which was served on the aircraft as an Aircrew Officer. He joined the Service as a 17 year old and flew his first mission in October 1981 to a motor vehicle accident. He continued to fly for the next 38 years amassing an incredible 7,100 flying hours, including over 400 hours in night vision goggles and has been in control of 2,639 winching operations and served as Crew Chief for 26 years until 2010. At the time of his retirement we believe him to be the longest serving Aircrew Officer on any civilian aeromedical helicopter in Australia.

In 2018, Nicko moved from Aircrew Officer to Community Liaison Officer and took the lead on our media program, as well as sharing his career with sponsors, community groups and supporters in presentations and at events.

Despite finishing with the Service in October, Nicko said “It’s not the end…It’s never the end in this industry, you make too many friends. They could be fellow aircrew or medical teams, emergency services personnel, police, they might be past patients, family or sponsors and supporters. I’ve got too many stories to share, so good luck getting rid of me.”

Glen Ramplin celebrated 25 years of service in late March but unlike his colleagues, Rampo’s time on the aircraft is not done just yet.

Aside from memorable missions such as the Pasha Bulker rescue that he was tasked to with Nicko, one of Glen’s proudest moments was the expansion of the Service into the New England Region in the year 2000.

Ramplin was integral to inaugural operations out of Tamworth, spending 3 years in the region helping establish the Service.

“Establishing the Service in Tamworth still holds great memories for me and always will,” Ramplin said. “It’s where I started my full-time career as an Aircrew Officer and my time there in establishing the new service and building ties with that community are some of my fondest memories with the Service,” he said.

“I’m going to miss the other two boys greatly. We have shared some memorable moments, great stories and importantly played our part in helping save the lives of people of all ages and from all parts of Northern NSW,” Glen said. “Hearing of past patients recovery and meeting them again is one of the very special moments that makes this job so rewarding.”

“It’s that reward and knowing that we are changing people’s lives every day, that keeps me coming back and I know the other boys will miss it but I also know they won’t be able to stay away and I know we’ll always be close,” Glen concluded.