Ocean Race organisers defend 'scary' Sky Tower chopper (+ video)

By NZ Herald Online staff

The helicopter pictured at the Sky Tower today. Photo / supplied
The helicopter pictured at the Sky Tower today. Photo / supplied

Volvo Ocean Race organisers have hit back at claims a helicopter they chartered flew dangerously close to Sky Tower.

The Helilink chopper filmed two race crews who were carrying out a "sky walk" near the top of the Auckland landmark this morning.

Onlookers stopped and stared as the chopper appeared to fly close to the tower.

A reader, who did not want to be named, said the flight was "scary" to watch.

"Whoever the pilot is, should be questioned as to his concern for the safety of not only himself and his passengers, but anyone on the ground in close range - this really was a crazy manoeuvre."

The Volvo Ocean Race tweeted pictures of crew members from Team Telefonica and Team Sanya on the Sky Tower.

But Sophie Luther, a Volvo Ocean Race spokeswoman, said footage appearing to show the chopper flying within metres of the tower was misleading.

"It was never within 200 metres of the Sky Tower. It's just a perspective thing."

In another statement, Volvo Ocean Race communications director Jon Bramley said it was one of a series of planned feature stories with Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development to promote the city.

"One of those was to show off the city from the air and four team members from different competing yachts were invited to 'sky walk and sky jump'.

"The helicopter company involved was Helilink, a commercial operation bound by CAA regulations. As part of our usual planning process, a recce was organized by Sky Tower and ourselves to co-ordinate our filming requirements for this shoot of which Helilink were fully appraised.

"Helilink have confirmed that the operation was carried out safely and in accordance with CAA Rules and company procedures and at no time did the helicopter come within the allowed distance of the ground or any structure. This has been verified by both the pilot and crew involved in the operation."

Helilink's website says it is Auckland's only downtown helicopter company.

The site said the company has a strong commitment to safety standards and quality assurance.

Another shot shot tweeted by Volvo Ocean Ra shows the teams waving to the chopper.

An Airways spokeswoman said the helicopter did not have to register its flight as the area around the Sky Tower was not controlled airspace.

It would be expected to provide regular updates on its position to other helicopters and planes in the area, she said.

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