Special delivery: Chopper to Chathams

By Roger Moroney


The eight-man crew of the Chatham Island Shipping company's coastal freighter Baldur are used to loading and unloading everything from livestock to groceries as part of its cargo-ferrying runs between Hawke's Bay and the island's main port of Waitangi. But a helicopter?

"No real problems," CIS managing director Dennis Nisbett said just before the McDonnell Douglas 520N helicopter descended into Napier Port on Tuesday just after 1pm. "It's the second time. We took one over for them three years ago ... in fact, it was exactly three years to the day."

The helicopter, from the Methven-based Mount Hutt Helicopters fleet, was flown to Napier by Hawke's Bay-born pilot Bill Hartree, who has been with the company two years.

The flight took five hours - just on double the time it took engineers to remove the five rotor blades, seal the fuel and hydraulic systems and wrap the 1200kg helicopter in industrial-strength plastic shrink wrapping for the salty sea voyage.

Mr Hartree landed the helicopter on the Herrick Number 4 wharf - the site usually occupied by logs cleared to create a landing pad which was a large raised platform surrounded by red marker cones.

It was then prepared for a heavy forklift to transport it to the neighbouring Geddis Number 3 wharf where the Baldur was moored.

The company has been called in to carry out extensive gorse control spraying on the Chathams, and Mr Hartree would be spending a month there before he and the helicopter return to Methven via Napier.

He said with a smile that he would be taking a commercial flight both ways rather than the 40-hour voyage.

"I haven't got good sea legs at all."

Mr Nisbett said the helicopter would join three giant plastic water tanks as deck cargo.

"It is a case of us taking all sorts of cargo between here and the Chathams ... anything."

The shipping service has been operating for four years and business between the island and the Bay was slowly growing, Mr Nisbett said.

"We want to support local businesses here and get the word out that they can do business with the Chathams. It could the local butchery ... it could be anything at all ... just let us know and see if we can do something."

In terms of aviation cargo, it is the third aircraft the 42m Baldur has taken aboard. Three years ago, it transported an old Air New Zealand aircraft in bits to the Chathams, where it was to be restored.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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