A spectacular fly-in marked the return of safe air ambulance access to Cobden after significant community advocacy paved the way for vital infrastructure upgrades at the aerodrome.
South-west patients will now be transported in a sensitive manner, away from the public eye after a 701 square metre segment of taxiway between the main airstrip and the transfer pad was sealed.
The $74,000 undertaking - unveiled today - was funded jointly by Corangamite Shire Council and the Cobden Aerodrome Asset Committee.
HEMS 4 base manager and pilot Dan Guillaumier said the ageing infrastructure had long made landing a dangerous task.
"There wasn't a lot of room for us to land at the airfield without impacting other aircraft and buildings there," he said.
"Our normal operations will end up landing on football ovals or in paddocks. In winter you can't even get a car across them, let alone landing a seven-tonne helicopter on them."
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SES, CFA, police and air ambulance staff attended the official opening and were joined by various council representatives.
South-central ward councillor Jo Beard said the project's completion held significant meaning to her.
"To see that HEMS 4 fly in today, my heart was smiling," Cr Beard said.
"I know there were quite a few committee members whose hearts were smiling because we knew how much this meant to the community.
"This just helps everybody get that patient where they need to in an emergency situation quicker and easier.
"As we know these rigs are getting bigger and heavier and so the landing spaces you guys require are so much bigger than what they used to be.
"We're really rapt we can now help provide a safe landing place for the ambulance to come and transfer the patient.
"Having been in the situation before of having a loved one having to make that dreaded trip to Melbourne in an emergency situation, it's also important that it's done in a sensitive manner.
"I remember growing up, whenever a helicopter landed on the footy ground here in Cobden everybody rushed out to watch and it's not sensitive for the family and friends involved.
"In a strategic sense this one means a lot to me."
Attendees were invited to tour the HEMS 4 vehicle and Cobden resident Rusty Ponting, 13, couldn't resist hopping into the pilot's seat.
"There's a lot more buttons here than I thought there'd be," he said.
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