Anyway... I began my small part in the history of HNZ flying a Sikorsky 58T to the Penrod 74 oil rig from New Plymouth out to an offshore drill site in North Taranaki. Oil rigs in those days were entirely crewed by American oil men from Louisiana who spoke in an unintelligible drawl that was reputedly English and chewed Red Chief chewing tobacco all at the same time.
The photo of the S-58T was taken at Invercargill Airport in 1976. The helicopter was used to support Hunt Petroleums Penrod 74 semi-submersible oil rig out in the Great South Basin. The blue roofed building behind was the HNZ flight office and the large hanger was used by NAC.
The distances required to service the Penrod 74 became too great for the S-58T to carry an effective load so a Sikorsky 61 from Okanagen Helicopters arrived to take over. The helicopter was crewed by Canadians but carried the HNZ logo. The Piper Aerostar (ZK-DCM) behind the S-61 was chartered as a support aircraft for the operation.
The Maui A platform was begun in 1976 off the south coast of Taranaki. The ship "Blue Whale" with its heavy lift crane was used to drive the piles to secure the platform to the sea bed and lift the modules onto the legs. One of the Alouette III's can be seen on the deck. A pilot was based offshore on the Blue Whale to do ship to platform transfers when the weather was too rough to transfer people on a walkway or by crane.
Helicopter NZ's first Bell 212; VH HNZ. It was a VFR model sans auto pilot and flew constantly between New Plymouth Airport and the Maui field... and back. We flew the 212 single pilot. I had an engine failure on take-off from a dive support vessel in this helicopter. It was touch and go whether we would end up in the Tasman Sea or not but managed to dodge the waves and flew back to New Plymouth on one engine.
Outside the HNZ hanger at New Plymouth. The Alouette III on the left was ZK HNY and the one on wheels could be either ZK HIS or ZK HIR but most likely HIR. The 212 is ZK HNZ. Both HIS & HIR were bought new and had eventful and interesting careers. ZK HIS had a record breaking short lifespan by being rolled over at Christchurch Airport in strong winds after a eight hours in the log book. Shortly after being repaired it had an engine failure in the South Island and was successfully autorotated into a river bed. However, its troubles were not yet over... it got rolled over by a flood during the night before it could be recovered. At that stage it had about 25 hours on the clock and was written off. The people who built this helicopter must have walked under a ladder or got out of the bed on the opposite side from how they got in ...
Moving on... in the meantime ZK-HIR crashed twice very close where it is in the photo. During one of it's crashes (the tail rotor was somewhat shorter than it should have been due to it striking the ground) I was running the 212 and about to take off from the pad where it is situated in the photo. After crashing, the Alouette flew to pieces causing bits of it to bounce off the 212. This was not very comforting! By the time the dust had settled parts of the Alouette III was spread so far around the airport that took two dogs to bark at it.
Alouette III ZK-HIR on the deck of the Blue Whale. In the back ground is the Maui A Platform under construction. Due the early phases of the construction when there was no accommodation on the Maui-A platform a Bell 47J (ZK HGO) was based off shore on the Blue Whale to do crew changes from the ship to the platform. It was a 24 hour operation and involved flying at all hours of the day and night ferrying crews back and forth. I still have nightmares thinking about it.
I'd sooner look over my left shoulder at the moon than fly this helicopter. The Bell J-model (ZK HGO), here seen at Taharoa for pilot transfers to the iron sand ships was also a 24 hour operation. I'm sure it terrified more pilots than any other helicopter in the entire world. These days you would need an on-site counsellor after every flight to do what we did in that machine...
During the periods when the Alouette III's were recovering from their crashes HNZ found temporary replacements for them. This Lama (ZK HNW) on fixed floats must be the only Lama ever used for passenger flights to oil rigs in the entire history of oil exploration. We also used an Alouette II (ZK-HIT) and a Hughes 500C (ZK HIA).
On the 9th June, 1978 one of the engines of Bell 212 (ZK HNZ) quit, spitting large pieces of the power turbines out the exhaust pipe and through the sides of the engine, just as I was lifting off the helideck of this ship - The Pacific Installer - which at the time was alongside the Maui A Platform.
The Blue Whale helideck was large enough to accommodate two helicopters. Bell 212 ZK HNZ and Alouette III ZK HNY. The Alouette III was an enjoyable helicopter to fly. Like the Lama the only power indication was a rotor pitch gauge. On fixed floats as in this photo they had much better tail rotor clearance. On wheels the tail rotor was very close to the ground especially when in a nose high attitude on landing or take-off.
In March 2012 I saw this AW 139 at New Plymouth Airport on a visit to NZ. This is the same type of helicopter I'm flying these days. And a very nice helicopter it is too...
HNZ's helicopters were always immaculately looked after and maintained... it was a pity there was an occasional mishap now and then.