Rescue pilots resign

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 10/09/2012

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Taranaki's troubled rescue helicopter service is facing another obstacle to remain airborne with both of its pilots having resigned.

Last month the Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter Trust announced it was in financial strife and needed to secure about $400,000 in extra funding to avoid having to wind up by the end of the year.

Trust chairman Mark Masters has confirmed both of the service's pilots, Sam Richmond, who is also base manager, and Fergus MacLachlan had resigned.

Mr Richmond, who started with the service in January 2011, will finish at the end of the month while Mr MacLachlan, who started in January this year, will leave at the end of October.

The trust has not been able to replace either pilot and won't be in a position to employ any pilots until it resolved its financial issues, Mr Masters said.

He said Mr Richmond had resigned before the trust announced it was facing a lack of funding and his job had been advertised.

"We received quite a list of candidates but due to the uncertainty surrounding the business we felt it was unwise of offer anyone a job."

The trust had not expected Mr MacLachlan's resignation this week.

Mr Masters did not believe the departure of the pair would disrupt the service performing rescue operations.

He said chief pilot Alan Deal, of Auckland company Helilink which runs the service, would provide cover and other options were being investigated.

"We are working with other trusts to see where we can share piloting and help us get through to a situation where we can put some permanent pilots in place," Mr Masters said.

He said the financial uncertainty that surrounded the trust and the big money on offer from commercial companies could make recruitment difficult.

"Naturally it does, but once we've got certainty around the financials then we will be able to go to pilots and say yes, we are in business and the business is secure.

"It is very competitive and unfortunately the sort of pilots that we need, with a lot of experience and capabilities, are the very pilots that are being sought after by the mining industry in Australia," Mr Masters said.

He could not say when the trust expected to resolve its money issues other than it was urgent.

"We've got a number of options and we've had some quite good offers and some quite good talks with some different companies but other than that I'm not prepared to comment any further until we have these things across the line."

He said as soon as the funding problems were solved the trust would be in a position to take on permanent pilots. "Then they can take up the job fully confident in the knowledge that yes, there is no likelihood of us falling over."

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