Antarctica contract career highlight for helicopter pilot
Already a master of the skies in Fiordland, the Southern Ocean and Southern Alps, the south's best- known helicopter pilot has secured a three-year deal to provide services to scientists in Antarctica.
Te Anau-based Richard "Hannibal" Hayes said yesterday that winning the Antarctica New Zealand contract was one of the "greats" of his 40-year career.
Now the sole owner of Southern Lakes Helicopters and Queenstown-based Heliworks, he was asked to tender for the contract following changes in the company that had previously held it for several decades.
"This is really exciting for us. It's very prestigious and we're really excited about going to work there," he said.
The contract requires his companies to man their heavy lifting AS 350 B3 Squirrel on the ice between November 1 and late February each summer. Operating from Scott Base, they would carry Antarctica NZ crew (mostly scientists) and their equipment.
The helicopter would be transported in a United States Airforce Starlifter, a large plane similar to a Hercules.
He had worked in Antarctica once before in the 1990s and while he only had three pilots, including himself, who were experienced enough to do the work, there would be opportunities for his other seven pilots to gain experience.
At any one time there would be a pilot and engineer on site.
Mr Hayes has pioneered long-distance sub-Antarctic helicopter rescue flights and was the first pilot to introduce night-vision goggles into New Zealand, enabling 24-hour emergency operations. He has an impressive log book noting almost 30,000 hours flying over 40 years.
The Southland Times