Something's Missing from the Skies Above New Zealand's Southern Lakes Region?

September 4th, 2012

Where is the Ata Whenua Helicopter?

This question has been asked numerous times over the last few months.  Those who keep an eye on helicopter flights over New Zealand’s Southern Lakes region have noticed she’s missing!

HOTEL JULIET OSCAR, the MD Hughes 500 D Model helicopter easily recognized by her much admired, unique, blue paint job has become an icon of the skies over Fiordland.  She has introduced thousands of visitors to the natural, awe-inspiring beauty of New Zealand’s Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound, and established herself as a real workhorse around Fiordland National Park – lifting bridges, shifting bivvies, keeping huts supplied & maintained, gravelling tracks, radio tracking birds, searching, rescuing, and playing a major role in the quest to create predator free islands for New Zealand’s endangered birds.

HJO has carefully transferred takahe, kakapo, mohua, blue ducks & rock wren to their new homes, kept local repeaters maintained so Te Anau communication lines stay open and monitored avalanche conditions on the Milford Road.  She’s carried loads and loads of precious cargo, including people from all over the world, endangered birds and their eggs, hunters, predator traps, trappers, crayfish, princes, government officials, tourists, TV & film crew, national geographic photographers, engineers, biologists, surveyors and wedding parties en route to their dream destinations.

HJO has featured in numerous films & documentaries, has been the subject of thousands of photographs, and was responsible for scouting, and more importantly finding, the sites in Fiordland that met Peter Jackson’s very specific criteria to film “Lord of the Rings”, and “The Hobbit”. She played a major role in the development and production of our Film of Fiordland, “Ata Whenua”, and is often referred to as “The Ata Whenua Helicopter”.

She’s one of those ever-reliable, high performing machines that never let you down, so when it came time to sell and upgrade to a new machine… selling was out of the question!  Instead, she has spent the winter season undergoing major cosmetic surgery.  Follow Fiordland Helicopters on facebook to see the first photos.  She will be back soon!


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