The department's main duty is to provide 24 hours emergency helicopter and fixed-wing flying support, seven days a week, to the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Search & Rescue (SAR)

One of the major responsibilities of the GFS lies with SAR operations. Although the area of responsibility covers the majority of the South China Sea up to 1300 nautical miles south of Hong Kong, most of the search and rescue operations take place within 400 nautical miles of Hong Kong.

The Challenger605 (CL605) aircraft are used as initial search and rescue aircraft for all long range and off shore SAR operations. It will be the first to arrive at the scene and act as on-scene commander. It will then guide the Airbus H175 Cheetah Helicopter to the scene to winch up the casualties, or seek assistance from other merchant ships in the vicinity if the location of the scene is outside the operational range of the Airbus H175 Cheetah Helicopter.

In-shore search and rescue operations are carried out using the Airbus H175 Cheetah Helicopter. Dawn searches for lost or injured hikers and climbers are very frequent. Such operations sometimes require the winching of people from inaccessible places in the rocky hills of the New Territories or from the many outlying islands, often under bad weather conditions.

Both during and following a typhoon or other natural disasters, the GFS is kept extremely busy. Apart from search and rescue operations, the department will carry government officers to survey flooding and damages to property and crops, as well as air-lift supplies and fly casualties to hospital.

Reconnaissance flights after a typhoon are designed to pinpoint areas in need of help as soon as the weather improves. Relief flights will be carried out accordingly.

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Air Ambulance

GFS provides a 24 hours air ambulance service. After receiving emergency callouts from clinics throughout the territory, the GFS helicopters can arrive on scene within 20 minutes for locations within Island Zone such as Hong Kong Island, Cheung Chau, Hei Ling Chau, Lantau, Peng Chau and Soko Islands, and 30 minutes for elsewhere within the Hong Kong territory.

When the designated sections of Hong Kong’s major highways are blocked as a result of major traffic accidents, ambulance access will be hampered. Under such circumstances, GFS will deploy its helicopters to transfer the seriously injured directly from the scene of the incident to hospital.

In association with the introduction of the Emergency Medical System, the GFS has expanded its Air Medical Officer support programme to include more specially trained doctors and nurses, who volunteer their services to provide specialist trauma and emergency treatment to the patients on board the aircraft. The service has been extended to cover from Fridays to Mondays and public holidays.

On average, the helicopter flies approximately 1,500 casualties to hospital per year.

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Fire Fighting

The Airbus H175 Cheetah Helicopter are also used for their fire fighting capabilities which have been put to good use in countryside fire suppression operations. These are mounted in conjunction with the Fire Services Department (FSD), the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and the Civil Aid Service (CAS). In addition to the standard fire bucket system, the Airbus H175 Cheetah Helicopter can also be fitted with a ‘belly tank' with its own suction pump and fire foam delivery system to enhance the fire fighting capability.

On average, the helicopters flies approximately 300 hours in response to fire fighting call outs per year.

In the dry season, particularly during Chung Yeung Festival and Ching Ming Festival, GFS will also assist AFCD in conducting “Sky-shout” operations by deploying its helicopters to fly above the countryside to remind the public about hill fire prevention with the use of loudhailers.

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General Government Support

The Home Affairs Department, Marine Department, Civil Aviation Department and Information Services Department make frequent use of helicopters to carry out their work. The Chief Executive also makes use of helicopters for official visits to outlying parts of Hong Kong.

Tasks performed for the Civil Aviation Department include the testing of existing runway visual aids. These flights involve night photography of the lighting on the approaches to check their serviceability. In addition, the GFS provides invaluable flying training for CAD officers.

The department's helicopters assist the Marine Department in the surveying of ships suspected of discharging oil in Hong Kong waters and spraying oil dispersant if necessary.

The work undertaken by the department for important visitors is considerable. As most of these visitors wish to see as much of Hong Kong in as short a time as possible, only helicopters can fulfill this need. Foreign government ministers and officials are often carried by the GFS aircraft during their visits.

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Aerial Survey

GFS conducts surveys and surveillance operations for various government departments. Images captured in the air are used for the compilation of maps and serve to provide data for the planning and survey of land reclamation or major infrastructure projects. The CL605 aircraft are modified to accommodate an on-board meteorological probe and dropsonde launching system to collect air data related to windshear, turbulence and tropical cyclones, etc.