It's taken 16 years rescuing patients and saving lives, but Darryl (Dazza) Sherwin has become the first Westpac rescue helicopter pilot to clock 2000 rescue missions.

The 53-year-old was honoured at the chopper base in Mechanics Bay in central Auckland yesterday.

But despite the high tally and the accolades, the veteran pilot said every mission was important. "I sort of don't think about it - it's just a number. Every one counts," he said. "We have our happy outcomes and our not so happy outcomes. But it's just a good feeling helping somebody out."

Mr Sherwin joined the Westpac rescue team in Auckland in 1998, after years working on choppers at Mt Cook, off the coast of New Plymouth and seven years in Papua New Guinea.


"I had a ride in a helicopter when I was about 12 years old and I thought, 'This is what I want to do one day'."

Then, on a hunting and fishing trip with family in remote Stewart Island in 1981, Mr Sherwin's brother-in-law drowned. Unable to get help, he lit signal fires on the beach. "Because I was on the receiving end ... I know the sound of a helicopter coming is the sound of help. It's an amazing buzz."

Dazza Sherwin and his colleagues can be seen in the new series of Code 1 - which "follows the heroes of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter as they ... save Kiwis in trouble" - starting next week on TV2.