One of the latest Kiwis to be knighted, Sir Richard Hayes is probably the only knight in the country with the nickname Hannibal.

"Arise, Sir Hannibal" has a nice ring to it for a rescue pilot with a history of talented and daring missions.

One of only a handful of Kiwi helicopter pilots to log 30,000 flying hours, Sir Richard "Hannibal" Hayes has been recognised "for services to search and rescue and the community". Made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001 for services to search and rescue, Sir Richard has continued his rescue missions in Southland, including several high-risk and high-profile flights.

He helped fight a "significant" Queenstown fire in 2005 and has been involved in a number of search and rescue operations in the Southern Ocean, including the search for survivors of the Kotuku sinking in Foveaux Strait in 2006 and the search for a Canadian Twin Otter plane that crashed on a steep slope near the peak of Mt Elizabeth in Antarctica.


He was nicknamed after Hannibal Hayes, one half of an outlaw duo trying to reform their ways in the 70s cowboy show Alias Smith and Jones. The TV Hannibal was infamous for all the wrong reasons; Sir Richard's fame has stemmed from his flying experience and daring rescues.

In 2000, two men were rescued from Mt Luxford in Fiordland National Park after Sir Richard conducted what police called "a daring piece of night flying" during a brief break in a blizzard.

He has been credited with being a pioneer of using night vision goggles in search and rescue, medevac and firefighting operations.

In 2008, he nursed his crippled helicopter for half an hour in "an exceptional piece of flying" after its tail rotor disintegrated mid-flight, before landing it like a fixed-wing plane on an agricultural airstrip at almost 150km/h.

Sir Richard also received a New Zealand police award for services to search and rescue in 2001 and a Federation Aeronautique Internationale diploma for outstanding airmanship in 2007.

"It's a huge honour, I feel very humble receiving it ... [but] nothing will really change," he said.

"Never in your wildest dreams would you think in a career of aviation that this would be bestowed on you. It's a great thing and a real privilege to have it given to me."

It would be "business as usual" this morning, and he wasn't about to let the "Sir" get bandied about the workplace.

Sir Richard Hayes - Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to search and rescue and the community.