Barry Walton Retires after more than four decades

Written by: WRHS, 04 Jul 2019

Barry Walton Retires after more than four decades
After more than four decades, Barry Walton will be officially retiring from the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.


Barry talks about the Rescue Helicopter with the enthusiasm of a young man in his first day of work and with the passion grown from years of being involved in stories of amazing rescues, emergency medical situations and years of witnessing how generous people can be.

There are few people who have ever been involved with the Service who have not had the privilege of meeting or working with Barry. And all will say that inevitably Barry will talk about the great jobs done by others or suggest opportunities to help.

Barry was a volunteer crewperson at the beginning of the Service’s incredible journey in 1975 when the Bell 47 helicopter flew along Newcastle beaches as a part time voluntary summer beach patrol. 

Some of his story is best told by him as he recalls the memories in detail just like they were yesterday.

“In 1992 I was employed full time, I then started travelling around the regions establishing our Volunteer network in the Newcastle, Hunter Valley and Mid North Coast regions, which today I am proud to say is now thriving.”

From 1996 together with the Service’s CEO Richard Jones, Barry started investigating the operational possibilities of a Service in the New England North West (NENW) region. It was in 2000 that that the vision became reality when the Tamworth Service was established and the Volunteer network followed soon after.  

Barry spent 14 years in the NENW and then returned to Newcastle to be with his family and now after 44 years, Barry says it’s time to look at closing this chapter of his life and retire.

Service CEO Richard Jones, could not speak more highly of his relationship with Barry to whom he credits being a strong mentor in the early days, a friend and an integral contributor and leader for the community’s own Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

“We have been so fortunate to have Barry as part of our helicopter family for more than four decades. He has held many roles and helped us to get the Service to the position it is in today,” he said.

Not only has Barry helped to save thousands of lives, but he has also been a strong driver of the Service’s marketing team. Dedicating time with Volunteers, building events, spending many hours travelling to regional towns and working with individuals and corporations explaining the value of the Service and how each could contribute in their own way.

“Barry has a great faith in people and has always taken great pride in the way they have contributed to ensure the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service has been able to grow with the community and upgrade to continue to be an integral and essential part of the emergency service chain throughout Northern NSW,” said Mr Jones.

Everyone at the Westpac Rescue Helicopter would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Barry for his outstanding years of service.

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Barry Walton BIO - 1975 - 2019

  • 1975 Barry commenced flying on board the Bell 47 as a volunteer.

    • Summer operation

    • Weekend roster Saturday and Sunday

    • 12 crew, one pilot

  • 1975-1992 - commenced working weekends.

  • 1978 - Updated to a Bell 206 Jetranger, this aircraft was shared NBN Television.

  • 1980’s - Expanded from a summer patrol to a 7 day a week operation.

  • 1980’s - Barry worked on the side for a local insurance company MMI – as credit manager (Monday - Friday). During this period, Baz could be called out at any time for a rescue.

  • 1992 - Employed full time as an Air Crewman. In addition to this role he also reported to media and was part of the marketing team.

  • 1996 - Started travelling to Tamworth to look at the possibility of expanding the Service.

  • 1999 - CEO Richard received a call from past patient Hamish McLaren to thank the Service for saving his life. Hamish said that he wanted to help raise funds and support for the establishment of a helicopter in Tamworth. Hamish’s accident took place at Woolbrook on 5 July.

  • 2000 - Tamworth Base was establish.

  • 2000 - 2014 Barry based himself out of the NENW.

    • Looked after media for the Service, established community Volunteer Support Groups, organised events and conducted payroll talks.

  • 2003 - Finished up flying after 28 years.

  • 2014 - Barry moved back to Newcastle and continued his role with the marketing team.