It's a hell of a view from 900 metres up

22:59, Jan 17 2011
Owen Dodson and Claire Connell
FEARS OVERCOME: Reporter Claire Connell with Owen Dodson from Marlborough Helicopters.

It's not often a person offers to be involved in an activity they know will make them shake, sweat and be scared.

But when I volunteered to ride in a helicopter as part of the Marlborough Express Summer Sizzler series, it was an attempt to conquer my fear of helicopters.

My last flight over Diamond and Lyttleton harbours on the outskirts of Christchurch about three years ago had me fearing for my life. I was in the back as we flew in what seemed like a kitset helicopter my brother could have sticky-taped together, rocked over the sea and did many turns in the sky.

Claire Connell
BIRDS-EYE VIEW: Reporter Claire Connell sees the sights of Marlborough thanks to Marlborough Helicopters.

Afterwards, I couldn't put my feet on the ground fast enough.

So you may think I was mad putting my name forward for another terror trip, but this time my time in the sky with Marlborough Helicopters was anything but.

Pilot Owen Dodson took me and two other fortunate reporters to heights of 3000 feet (more than 900 metres) over the Wither Hills and central Blenheim, and boy, was it fun.


Owen has 20 years' flying experience with the company, and said its main business was agricultural fertiliser and spraying work. Scenic trips make up about 1 per cent of the business, so we considered ourselves lucky.

Activities in a working day in Owen's life can range from anything from frost fighting crops to fighting fires.

Heading south to the Awatere Valley area, the hills were dry and seemed bigger than I thought they were. Back in Blenheim township, the houses were tiny and I was envious of what seemed like dozens of people who owned swimming pools. I was even able to spot my own house, after I worked out my sense of direction.

Owen said everything looks different from the air, and he was right.

The sky was clear and the temperature was warm, and not even the turns Owen did in the helicopter fazed me.

Perhaps I'd just had a bad experience before.

And as for my fear of helicopters? Completely conquered. So who's for another ride?

The Marlborough Express