Pilot Peter Davies is back in the skies above Northland 16 years after he first flew a rescue helicopter in the region.

When it comes to flying helicopters there's not much the Northland Rescue Helicopter pilot hasn't done. Since 1980 he has worked on heli ski and tourist operations on Mt Cook through to agricultural flying and ferrying park rangers around Zimbabwe. But flying a rescue helicopter has been his calling.

His first taste of rescue work was when he was an agricultural pilot and was called to help with search and rescue emergencies.

"This was long before we had dedicated emergency medical service operations like the Northland rescue helicopters. Back then the agricultural pilots were jack of all trades, and that sort of flying and rescue work made me realise I wanted to help people," Mr Davies said.


Mr Davies joined the Northland crew in 1996 until 1998.

During his first two-year stint he flew the then newly acquired Sikorsky S-76 helicopters, which allowed the service to handle the increasing demand in Northland.

Work on oil and gas contracts in Qatar, Iran, and Thailand have kept Mr Davies overseas for the majority of the past 18 years but he reckons returning to Northland is what he wanted to do.

"It just so happened that the downturn affecting the oil and gas market coincided with a vacancy here. I feel like a circle in my career has been completed.

"Pilots, well most of us anyway, aspire to the best positions possible that offer the most challenges. That is something Northland Rescue Helicopter offered me back in 1996, and has again in 2016."

The scale of the Northland operation has impressed him.

"It has always been a community driven organisation and will continue to be, but it's also evolved into an innovative and go-ahead organisation with its own flight simulator for pilot training, a certification to undertake its own aircraft maintenance, and fundraising efforts to rival any rescue helicopter operation."

The introduction of night vision goggles and high-tech GPS routes and instrument approaches have drastically increased flying capability and safety for pilots.

"Back in the day, winching and landing at night in remote places put huge pressure on the skills of the pilots and crewman.

"We only had a searchlight on the helicopter so we relied heavily on the ground emergency services to prepare and light the landing zone."