HNZ flight training planned

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 12:00 17/11/2012

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An advanced pilot training school to be set up at global helicopter firm HNZ's Nelson headquarters is expected to run 10 three-week courses per year, pilot instructor Dave Sowman said.

He said the Topflight School in Nelson would run along similar lines to the Canadian model which had been running for decades.

The new school was announced on Thursday at HNZ's base at Nelson Airport, attended by Prime Minister John Key, Nelson MP Nick Smith and the parent company's international board,

The $1 million initial investment needed to set up the school is for the cost of the helicopter to be used in instruction and additional helicopter components, classrooms and audiovisual facilities, and administration, HNZ said.

The Nelson school would aim to provide advanced instruction to commercial sector pilots from the Asia-Pacific regions. It will provide experienced helicopter pilots further skills in such things as mountain flight training, advanced operational flight training and night ratings.

Nelson-based HNZ Group executive vice-president international Keith Mullett said investment in the school was expected to increase in coming years. Nelson was an ideal location for advanced helicopter training, and the company expected the school to attract a lot of international interest.

Mr Sowman and one other Nelson-based HNZ pilot instructor would train the pilots at the Topflight School, which is expected to be operating by autumn next year.

HNZ said marketing would begin in January.

Mr Sowman, who has been with HNZ for 14 years, said the company had for some time provided instruction to overseas pilots working contracts in Southeast Asia and Antarctica.

HNZ, which has strong historic links to Nelson, was bought last year by Canada's largest domestic helicopter operator. The Canadian parent company then took on the HNZ name this year as part of a global rebranding exercise.

Group chief executive Don Wall said the group had "chased" HNZ, formerly Helicopters NZ, for a number of years.

"We believe the brand will form the basis for strong growth."

Mr Wall noted three of New Zealand's largest aviation businesses were now in Nelson and Marlborough.

Nelson Airport chief executive Kaye McNabb, who also chairs the Top of the South Aviation Steering Group, said HNZ's pilot training school in Nelson was "fantastic news".

Part of the role of the steering group is to identify the size and scope of aviation in the region.

Mrs McNabb said HNZ's plans would add to other pilot training schemes already operating in Nelson, and would lead to "another significant increase in aviation growth" in the region.

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"Aviation training is becoming a significant contributor to the region's economy," she said.

Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency chief executive Bill Findlater said yesterday an international school run by HNZ in Nelson would boost its local profile.

"It's been here a long time but has been operating below the radar because most of its work is done outside the region," Mr Findlater said.

- The Nelson Mail

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