A helicopter pilot has today admitted breaching Civil Aviation Authority rules by flying while suspended in order to rescue an injured hunter in remote bush.
Kaikoura pilot Dave Armstrong had been grounded due to a medical condition when a Christchurch hunter fell down a bluff and broke his leg in the remote Puhi Puhi Valley, north of Kaikoura, in April last year.
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter was unable to find the hunter in bad weather.
Experienced pilot Armstrong, 63, answered a plea to help and completed the rescue.
Rescuers said the hunter could have died if Armstrong had not stepped in.
But the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) charged him with breaches of the Civil Aviation Act.
Today at Kaikoura District Court, Armstrong through defence counsel Craig Ruane admitted charges that on April 5 last year he flew a Robinson R44 helicopter without an appropriate medical certificate issued under the Civil Aviation Act and that he failed to accurately record flight details in his pilot logbook.
He also admitted flying without a medical certificate on April 21 last year during a police search operation in the Clarence River area.
Related charges against Kaikoura Helicopters Limited were today dropped.
An online Change.org petition backing Armstrong's actions has received more than 4000 supporters.
The rescued hunter, Mr Lee, was in court to support Armstrong today.
After the hearing, he told reporters how Armstrong saved his life.
"Dave truly is my hero. I can't express how much gratitude I have towards him."
Mr Lee, who broke his femur in the fall down steep scree, was "devastated" that his rescuer was charged and slammed the CAA's prosecution.
"How much do [CAA] value a human life? Does it really come down to the paperwork?"
He hoped Armstrong would receive a discharge without conviction.
"There's no way a man can be convicted for saving someone's life."
The CAA's summary of facts describes the second incident where police - unaware that Armstrong had been grounded due to his medical condition - asked him to help search for three people overdue from a kayaking trip on the Clarence River on April 21 last year.
Armstrong flew a fellow pilot and a police constable in the search before being stood down as the missing trio were located elsewhere.
He later admitted asking his fellow pilot to document the entire flight - as he did with the rescued hunter - in their pilot logbook and not his own.
The CAA says medical fitness to fly is a "cornerstone of the aviation system".
"The purpose of the Act is to establish rules of operation and divisions of responsibility within the New Zealand civil aviation system in order to promote aviation safety," the CAA's summary says.
"As the aviation safety regulator, the CAA has an obligation to promote aviation safety and security in the interests of the general public."