NZ Helicopter Pilot Hailed As A Hero Faces Jail Time

NZ Helicopter Pilot Hailed As A Hero Faces Jail Time
A New Zealand helicopter pilot hailed as a hero for a dramatic rescue is facing jail
time for flying the search and rescue mission while his pilot certificate was suspended.
And the person he rescued says he owes his life to the aviator.
The incident occurred on April 5, 2014. According to, pilot David
Armstrong, the director of Kaikoura Helicopters, rescued Hunter Scott Lee, who was
lashed to a tree on the edge of a 150-foot bluff in a remote area of the Puhi Puhi
Valley north of Kaikoura. Lee's girlfriend had fallen down a shingle bank, and on his
way down to her, he tripped and broke his leg on the tree that prevented him from
going over the precipice. He fell nearly 45 feet.
According to Lee, his girlfriend then became the rescuer, and managed to reach him
and tie him to the tree with her own clothing and their dog's leash.
The first helicopter sent to conduct a rescue turned back due to low fuel, so Armstrong
took off as an advisor to his copilot, knowing he was not legally able to fly. The
copilot, however, was not able to fly the Robinson R44 to the spot where a doctor and
an SAR team needed to be dropped, so he took the controls himself.
The SAR crew got Lee out after about six hours on the ledge.
Armstrong had been grounded because of a medical issue. At the time of the rescue,
that revocation had been challenged and he was working to try to get the grounding
lifted. He has been charged with breaches of the Civil Aviation Act for performing
search and rescue flights without a current medical licence.
That act is currently under review. It says that pilots can violate the law in life or
death emergencies, but not if they are not legally able to fly. That includes for medical
reasons, according to the report.
Lee and his girlfriend Lisa McKenzie have written to the New Zealand CAA in
support of Armstrong. In the letter, they say that they "owe our lives to Dave and the
team that helped us." Lee went on to say in the letter that Armstrong "has done a
heroic act in my eyes, and if anything, he deserves a medal for what he's done. He's a
Instead, the pilot faces a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail or a $10,000 fine.
(Aero-news Network)