Recognition of a life of flying

Bill Black off to London for 'special' award

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 02/08/2014
Bill Black
BARRY HARCOURT
HONOURED: Te Anau pilot Bill Black, with a model of a Squirrel helicopter he spent many hours flying, and wife Shirley are off to London, where he will receive a prestigious aviation award.

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A vastly experienced Southland pilot will receive a prestigious international aviation award but, in an ironic twist, he is afraid of flying to London for the occasion.

In October, Bill Black, MBE, will be awarded the Jean Batten Memorial Trophy for his outstanding contribution to New Zealand aviation.

Ironically, despite his vast experience flying dangerous rescue missions, Black says he is afraid of flying to London in a passenger plane to collect the award at the Guildhall.

"I'm frightened . . . there seems to be a lot of missiles going off around the world at the moment," the 70-year-old said from his Te Anau home yesterday.

Black received a letter from the London-based Honourable Company of Air Pilots this month which said it gave out several awards each year to recognise outstanding achievements in aviation.

Black was especially honoured to receive the Jean Batten Memorial Trophy because the same trophy was awarded to Ian Ritchie in 2005. Ritchie taught Black to fly fixed-wing aircraft more than 50 years ago.

Black has flown high ever since, loving the buzz of his chosen profession.

"There's something about it that's in your blood. You get a lot of thrills and never suffer from constipation."

Black initially flew fixed-wing aircraft before getting his helicopter licence, clocking up nearly 30,000 flying hours in total.

He was one of the pioneers of deer recovery in Fiordland when he signed up with Sir Tim Wallis as pilot for Luggate Game Packers at the end of 1967.

The owner of his own helicopter business, Black also serviced the fishing industry, worked with muttonbirders, fought fires, salvaged aircraft and was involved in more than 500 search and rescue missions.

He stopped flying commercially a decade ago after heart surgery, but still flies his two-seater gyrocopter.

Despite Black's misgivings, his wife, Shirley, said they planned to go to London to receive the trophy because it was "pretty special".

evan.harding@stl.co.nz

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