"Sorry, people, I need to get my pyjamas on and get going."
Twenty minutes into our interview and search-and-rescue pilot Liam Brettkelly has received a phone call to attend a car accident near Mamaku.
The crew has 10 minutes to open the hangar doors and pull the twin-engined BK117 helicopter onto the ramp while Brettkelly gets changed into a flight suit and helmet.
Soon after with all the crew on board, the jet engine roars to life and the whooshing motion of the rotating blades drowns out voices.
The helicopter is instantly off the ground, but by only a few feet, as he slowly reverses the machine away from its helicopter pad.
A lover of fast things, Brettkelly used to be a motorbike mechanic and up until last year had his own trail bike.
He became a pilot in his late teens having spent his boyhood fascinated by the vision of flying 10,000 feet above the ground.
His first paid job was operating a Jet Ranger in Pauanui, before flying tourists up and down Fox Glacier for five years and then coming to Tauranga when the Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter did in 2000.
He's been Tauranga's chief rescue pilot since.
Despite his stomach of steel, the 52-year-old feels safer skimming skies than he does driving on the road.
"I'm so weary of the opposite direction traffic now," he says.
"The idea of a head-on gives me absolute heebies. Some of these crashes you go to they're just so destructive."
In the early 2000s, he was the sole pilot at the Ian Pain Memorial Hangar and attended every job, but these days he works on a rostered basis with pilots Todd Dunham and Hendry de Waal, as well as two intensive care paramedics and two crewmen.
They attend an average of six-and-a-half jobs a week.
"For many, many years I was it and the roster was six days on, two days off, but I could work from home (five minutes away)."
Now he stays at the hangar and keeps himself busy with jobs that keep the unit operating.
For Brettkelly, he is not just a helicopter pilot but the base manager.
He spends most of his day in an office that's much like a small, open-plan apartment.
There's a kitchen, leather couches, and television, dining table, office, bed and en suite.
When a rescue pilot is on duty, their shift is 24-hours straight but Civil Aviation is looking to change flight and duty requirements to manage fatigue.
Pilots have a 10-minute required response time during the day and 20 minutes at night.
"You don't need too many delays to tip you over that 10 minutes," Brettkelly explains.
"When we get paged that starts the clock until we get airborne."
Within this time, they must also quickly access weather conditions.
Getting accurate weather reading anywhere east beyond Whakatāne is tricky, as is a moonless sky.
"But night jobs are good once you're up and running," he says. "Just getting woken I've never really gelled with. I like my sleep."
Catching the flying bug
Brettkelly vividly remembers his first experience of helicopters.
It was 1979 and he was a student at Taupō Intermediate and his classmate's dad was a helicopter pilot.
"We'd all gathered on the tennis court and we heard this high pitched sound roaring over the school ... It did a split-arse turn and landed in front of us all."
To a 12-year-old boy, it was magical.
He attended Taupō-nui-a-Tia College before doing a motorbike mechanic apprenticeship at Huka Honda. He got his private pilot licence in 1988.
The following year, his mum Bridget, 50, died of cancer.
He stayed at Huka Honda until 1991 and got his commercial helicopter licence in 1993.
His first job was flying a Jet Ranger for tourists in Pauanui.
The job required six-minute "loopy rides" which coined him the name "point one" by his pilot boss, who died when his plane went into the sea some years later.
It was a cruel wake-up to the dangers of flying.
"There's always an element of risk," reflects Brettkelly.
"We just don't go charging around low-level in areas we don't know.
"We've got to have a really, safety-conscious mindset because these machines will bite you in the butt as quick as you'll let them. You've got to treat them with respect."
In May 1995, he got a job flying tourists around Fox Glacier and stayed there for five years with wife, Rachel, twins Luke and Jake, and daughter Isabella.
The changing alpine conditions saw one of Brettkelly's colleagues take punters on a "20-minute" flight one day, only to get stuck in Mt Cook Village for a fortnight when the weather set in and stayed set in.
In his current job, he's had to stay out-of-town overnight in a bout of bad weather as well make stop-offs in paddocks.
Fellow pilot de Waal, a former police Eagle helicopter pilot who has also worked in Indonesia, says the unexpected wouldn't faze Brettkelly who's relaxed and easy to work with.
That's echoed by Dunham, who says Brettkelly is a bubbly character who likes a good laugh but is "Mr Serious" when a job needs doing.
"He's professional at it, and a pretty modest person."
Dunham, 51, has an interesting backstory, which is worth a side note.
Before joining Phillips Search and Rescue Trust 10 years ago, he worked in Cambodia and Laos, flying United States military personnel into the jungle to search for American human remains from the Vietnam War.
Searchers would set up camp for a month and it was Dunham's job to fly them back and forth. Local villagers were also involved in the digging and screening of dirt.
Any skeletal remains were taken to Hawaii for mitochondrial DNA sequence analysis and if a match was found a repatriation ceremony would follow; the result of a promise made by the United States Congress to bring remains home.
Dunham did this for three years before deciding it was time for a change.
His new job, however, firstly in Palmerston North and then Tauranga, involved more than "just flying".
"Sometimes, I've been on the side of the road counselling and holding loved ones that are crying."
He's also put rubber gloves on and become an assistant paramedic when needed.
Whereas Brettkelly has become somewhat of a paranoid road driver, Dunham's resigned to: "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. There are some things out of our control."
Now and again pilots get a cake and a card from a patient wanting to say "thanks" but a lot of people just want to move on and put the trauma behind them too.
"We're there to do our job and do it the best we can for our community."
One thing pilots can provide that's unique to them is winch rescues, and other novelties are transporting Armed Offenders Squad members to jobs and flying firefighters and their equipment to the likes of Motiti Island.
Firefighters often call into the hangar on Sundays with scones - and all services will be represented at the rescue helicopter's annual open day at the Tauranga hangar tomorrow.
In the past, the most frequently asked questions from the public have been: "What's the scariest job you've been to?" and "Have you crashed?'"
Brettkelly hasn't crashed and if it's getting scary, something isn't right.
He steers clear of places like Waioeka Gorge at night because there's a single strand powerline that's hundreds of metres high and zig-zags all the way through.
Aside from power lines, another potential hazard is drones. Not everyone follows the operating rules, he tuts.
For all its challenges though, the job is a good one and Brettkelly feels lucky to be doing it in Tauranga.
His close friend Rob Jennings, a private helicopter pilot who owns an ex-medevac Bell Jet Ranger from Florida, put together winch trainers in four of the trust's rescue centre hangars.
Jennings owns Rob Jennings Developments Ltd and says Brettkelly is "incredibly devoted".
Flying a chopper the size of the Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter (max take-off weight is 3350kgs) is more taxing than a single-engine aircraft which is "half the workload".
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But Brettkelly is as trustworthy as they get.
"Definitely when he gets a call he's pretty wired and got to get there.
"He's very serious about what he does and you have to be.
"For all those guys, there's no margin of error; and between flying in the day and flying at night it's just another world. You've gotta kind of experience it to appreciate it."
He gives the example of what it might be like to fly along the coast of Tauranga at night with the twinkling city lights, and then turn and fly straight over the ocean.
"You can't see a thing, you don't know where you're going. That's the sort of thing that could happen in the blink of an eye and it's extremely stressful so you've got to be on top of your game."
While pilots and some of the crew do wear night-vision goggles, they're depending on technology to keep them safe. The same applies if their GPS stops working and they're forced to revert back to maps.
"I can't speak highly enough of Liam and I've got a huge amount of respect for him as a pilot and I've got a huge amount of regard for him as a friend.
"I'd put my life in his hands any second of any day of the week. To do it professionally it's a taxing environment, especially at the level that those boys are at."
Jennings says it's every boy's dream to fly a helicopter and Brettkelly is living it.
The fearless fly-boy himself agrees.
"I've always had a fascination with helicopters and that festered itself into what it is now," he says.
"Flying is the best part… that's why we all do it.
"I love flying."
# TrustPower TECT Rescue Helicopter open day
Look inside the rescue chopper, meet the crew, take a winch ride and watch live emergency services demonstrations.
Where: Ian Pain Memorial Hangar, Cameron Rd, Tauranga.
Admission: Gold coin donation.