RNZAF big Survivor stars

Last updated 05:00 10/04/2010
RNZAF helicopter in Survivor

CAMEO: A RNZAF Iroquois takes off after dropping off the Survivors.

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New Zealand's nearly retired Iroquois helicopters are big stars on US television's Survivor: Heroes vs Villains.

Filmed in Samoa last year, the Survivor series coincided with a Royal New Zealand Air Force exercise based at the airport in Faleolo.

RNZAF spokesman Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki said the series producers came to them.

"They wanted a big opening for their series, and we were exercising there, so we were happy to take part," he told Stuff.

With four helicopters flying in line, they flew the contestants from Faleolo to a "secret" location on the south coast of Upolu.

"It was good for us and it was good for them; we get to exercise in tropical conditions and land on beaches we would not normally go to," he said.

Survivor Samoa were not charged for the exercise.

"We saw it as a good training opportunity."

The series showed in the US and Squadron Leader Tamariki said many in the RNZAF were delighted with their appearance on it.

He admitted that most Americans would probably have had no idea what the RNZAF was, although some of the "New Zealand" shoulder flashes were seen on the screen.

The exercise turned out to have a coldly pragmatic result when, a month later, a tsunami hit Samoa.

The RNZAF quickly returned and were able to put into practice immediately the skills they had learn in the exercise with Survivor Samoa.

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