Chopper pilots get together

18:51, Dec 19 2012

Decorated helicopter pilots converged on Taranaki last weekend to help one of their own celebrate 40 years in business.

Richmond (Ditch) Harding and Charlie Anderson, both of Whanganui, and Keith McKenzie, of Taumarunui, joined Alan Beck, of Eltham, at the celebration held to mark the establishment of Beck Helicopters Ltd in Eltham in 1972.

All four pilots hold the Queen's Service Medal for services to search and rescue.

Taranaki dignitaries, including five mayors and former mayors, and clients who supported the establishment of the company marked the milestone.

They included South Taranaki mayor Ross Dunlop, Stratford mayor Neil Volzke, and former mayors David Lean, of New Plymouth, Mary Bourke, now of Stratford, and Brian Jeffares, of Stratford.

Beck told the crowd highlights of his career included his first solo flight, removing the tree from Auckland's One Tree Hill, the erection of the bungy jump tower at Queenstown, numerous mountain rescue operations, fire-fighting in Australia and life membership of New Plymouth Old Boys Surf Lifesaving Club in recognition of his contribution to the New Year's Day beach carnival at Oakura. The Bell jet ranger helicopter he purchased in 1977 was rebuilt last year and was now better than new.

The company's workshop also had a licence to rebuild Bell UH-1 Iroquois or Huey helicopter engines.

More helicopter engineers were needed to undertake the work, he said.

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Taranaki Daily News