The hero tag has never sat comfortably with Charlie Anderson, insisting that ZK-HTM was the real heroine.
ZK-HTM is an aging Bell Jet Ranger helicopter that was Anderson's office for the majority of the more than 20,000 flying hours he racked up as a topdressing pilot based in Whanganui.
In fact, she was more like home.
Anderson's exploits in the air earned him legendary status before his retirement in March 2004 with ZK-HTM his chariot of choice.
The inseparable pair earned the hero tag largely through the hundreds of rescue missions they flew before dedicated rescue helicopters and air ambulances arrived.
Of course, there was also plenty of storytelling fodder produced by more than a quarter of a century working as an agricultural topdressing pilot.
And now ZK-HTM too has surpassed the 20,000 flying hour milestone, although, unlike her old mate Charlie, she has yet to retire and continues to grace our skies under the Mid West Helicopters banner.
So it was rather fitting that Mid West Helicopters founding director Dean Lithgow invited Anderson to sit in the passenger's seat on July 31 as ZK-HTM flew through the 20,000 hour barrier.
Lithgow trained as a helicopter pilot under Anderson and mostly in ZK-HTM. This time Lithgow was at the controls and Anderson in the student's chair.
For both man and machine, 20,000 hours is an extraordinary amount of flying time rarely achieved by either.
"I have had many favourite aeroplanes and helicopters in my 60 years in aviation, but none more so than my outright favourite Bell Jet Ranger that my boss Richmond Harding of Wanganui Aero Work bought for me to operate in 1980," Anderson recalled.
"ZK-HTM, officially known as Zulu Kilo Hotel Tango Mike, affectionately known to all who love her as Tango Mike, or more likely TM.
She has a history that will blow your mind, not all of which could be shared here – it was a different world back then."
For Lithgow it all began in the late 1980s as ground crew for many years for Anderson while gaining his license.
"Charlie did all my agricultural training in TM and allowed me to do a little commercial work as well while training," Lithgow said.
"He very rarely took time off but when he did I'd be given that pager for air ambulance calls and police work which happened on a number of occasions, exciting stuff for a pilot low on hours.
"We had so many exciting times back then, memories that last a lifetime some probably better left untold as times have changed. There are many things that sit vividly in my mind from rescues off shore to a SkyHawk almost colliding with the underbelly of that yellow helicopter one morning. (TH was yellow back in her Aero Work days).
"The amazing people met along the way, people I don't think you would be exposed to in other industries.
"Move forward to 2017 with me as founding director, along with other pilots, purchased TM and other aircraft to form Mid West Helicopters. TM resides with us still in the Whanganui region with Charlie sitting around our board table which is invaluable to our team.
"I personally would like to thank Charlie for being such a great instructor, mentor, sounding board and friend for the past 35 years and obviously his family, wife Kathy and children, Jacinda and Jeremy who have been like family to me.
"Our flight around the Whanganui area as TM clocked over its 20,000 hours with Charlie will go down as one of the most memorable and significant flights I have done," an emotional Lithgow recalled.
Anderson later outlined how it all began and the vital role Wanganui Aero Work, ZK-HTM and he himself played in those early days.
"In 1980 there were no air ambulance services in New Zealand but when Prime Minister Muldoon opened his cheque book for his Think Big policy," Anderson said.
"The farming community saw huge opportunity and went crazy developing huge tracts of land some of which, in hindsight, that should never have been developed."
It was boom times, good times, but at times dangerous for rural folk especially with little or no medical support nearby.
"During that period TM carried out some 250 air ambulance and SAR flights," Anderson said.
"There were no medical or ambulance staff available to us, we carried out all the medical stuff ourselves, I even stuffed mud into one man to stop the bleeding after his leg was torn off in a bulldozer accident. How we never killed anyone I will never know.
"At that time the health authorities saw no value in our service.
"At times TM's flight manual limitations as documented were exceeded way beyond anyone's expectations and she didn't give up - no other machine on earth would even come close to this abuse and still operate, except perhaps Bell's famous Huey.
"The farmers would ring us directly, which was quite good because we were usually already at the Red Lion Inn having a couple and that put us even closer to the airport.
"One day, after a very serious accident, my boss Richmond Harding was flying TM back to Whanganui and needed to land at the hospital, like NOW. The superintendent of the day refused to let him land but he did anyway and all hell broke loose.
"From that day forward we were permitted to land at the hospital but only if the fire brigade were notified and were on site before we landed. Then slowly but surely, ambulance staff were made available, doctors thought this an awesome service, a bit slow but they got it in the end and now we have the best air ambulance service in the world.
"I am proud of my input, but really only did what was available to me as a young man. I wouldn't want to go through all that again though, I was only 30 years old."
Anderson is adamant the system would never have evolved without the involvement of Harding and Dr Rene de Jong, the then head doctor in Wanganui Hospital's accident and emergency department.
Richmond Harding and Charlie Anderson were awarded the QSM for services to rescue and public service.
"During my time at Wanganui Aero Work Richmond Harding converted six of our Bell Jet Rangers into double-stretcher available capacity aircraft at a cost of $40,000 each - no government subsidy or thanks here," Anderson said.
"During my time as a pioneer rescue pilot at Aero Work there are some very sad stories, some I can't tell here, but there are some I feel the need to share in the interest of how the hell it was.
"One evening flying a high-risk pregnant mother from Whanganui to Wellington intensive care, we are abeam Porirua and she had the baby. I proudly announced to Wellington Air Traffic Control we were now five persons onboard and not the four we had flight planned with.
"I called for a priority landing at Wellington hospital. An inbound Boeing Jet from Australia With 200 onboard happily did an orbit and let our little Jet Ranger with its precious cargo go first. Everyone in TM looked like we had sand in our eyes.
"Another day a boy on a surf ski was seen in trouble off the South Mole with a strong northwest wind blowing. The police called me to assist with the scoop net. After 40 minutes of searching the police stood me down, we had spent the $400 budget.
"I asked several times had they found the boy, I got no reply except to stand down. I ignored that request and followed a wind lane south for 15 miles and 5 miles off the coast at Turakina there was this boy waving his arms, we scooped him up and flew him home.
"They came back that afternoon and picked up the boy's surf ski from outside my hangar and disappeared. I often wonder who he was, he will know who he is, I wonder if I will.
Anderson said of the hundreds of rescues he had been on only one had ever said thank you.
"And that was the mother who bought me flowers from her son's grave, a son that I failed to get home safely one day.
"I am proud to say that Dean Lithgow, owner/director of Mid West Helicopters, now operates TM among his fleet. Dean was my crewman trainee pilot many years ago and witnessed firsthand some of the amazing stuff this old workhorse carried out.
"Hotel Tango Mike, thank you for getting me home safely after thousands of hours of some very serious bad shit," Anderson said.