Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kaikoura Is Just A Bit Remote.

Dave Armstrong, Kaikoura Helicopters director and pilot. He faces prosecution for a search and rescue mission performed while his licence was suspended.
                                                                                                                           Chris Tobin Fairfax
Dave Armstrong who with wife Lee operates  Kaikoura Helicopters

Situated midway between Blenheim and Christchurch with only two roads out to the South and one to the North, all three very vulnerable and easily completely closed,  most residents of Kaikoura are  very well equipped to look after themselves and each other with little regard for some of the very odd, in their eyes, decision makers who work in air conditioned offices in far off and very different places such as The Capital.

When I was born there in the first half of the 20th century the rail link had not been completed and was still three years away,  it is now an Iconic Train Journey, 'The Coastal Pacific'.
The Doctor who did the honours was a local legend Robert Langtree "Doc" Withers, succeeded by a nephew of his Peter Gordon who has a book published on practice in the isolated yet quite populous community. Many catholic families meant many large extended families and in the  1940s Kaikoura had four hotels, a fishing industry, a dairy factory a public works camp and a Hospital that at times performed some rather extraordinary surgical efforts made necessary due to the three hour minimum transport to any facility more suited and better equipped. Appendectomy, amputation, childbirth complications and many others had the GP doing some remarkable procedures with sometimes an open phone line assisting. Oh and occasionally they stood in for the non-existent Vet.

With an upgraded State Highway One, a Railway, and modern aviation the place is no longer as isolated as Doc Withers  endured and with the ever growing Ngai Tahu Walewatch operation such insularity is no longer apparent but the spirit remains and sometimes Kaikoura just does Kaikoura.
April 4th 2014 was such a day.

One does not have to move far off SH1 to be in some of the most rugged mountainous and challenging terrain of this nation and the Puhi Puhi Valley is a classic with some excellent hunting of deer, pig and chamois. Mt Fyfe that towers over the town is a rare place in this country where it is a very short distance from coast to an often snow clad mountain of the Seaward Kaikoura range.

Late on that Day in the autumn of 2014 a hunter, attempting to go to the assistance of his companion slipped and fell, breaking his Femur, His companion secured him to a tree with some of her clothing and sought help.
A rescue helicopter got close but ran short of fuel and turned back leaving the stranded in the closing light and deteriorating weather fearing death. Blood loss and shock from a Broken Femur can be fatal in a very short time.

Kaikoura pilot Dave Armstrong was at that time suspended from flying due to a still disputed medical matter but in response to a request from local SAR,  he put a lesser trained pilot in a Robinson 44 and took a rescue team to the remote mountainside in the Puhi Puhi Valley.
The less experienced pilot could not make it happen so Dave took control and lowered the rescue team in to where they secured the hunter and carried him the six hour walk to safety.

On the 16th of October 2015 Dave Armstrong is scheduled to appear in the Kaikoura District Court to face CAA charges of flying while his licence was suspended that could result in Jail time and significant financial penalties if found guilty.
Just preparing to defend the charges will be bloody expensive.
The now restored to health, hunter has written in support of Armstrong's life saving breach of CAA rulings as has Morrissy the local SAR leader.

Ok Dave has defied a suspension but clearly whatever caused that, it would appear it did not seriously impinge on his ability to fly in that terrain where he has spent many hours flying in many weather situations, dropping and retrieving hunters, weather station visits, farm related operations yet a bunch of cardigan, walk short and sox in Roman sandals wearing numpties are going after Dave with the full legal sanctions available.

It will be very expensive for Dave and Lee whatever happens and it would seem likely a Judge with some brains will toss it at first opportunity but something tells me it will get worse before it gets better and that is a tragedy.
Armstrong and his like are not always  best friends with CAA where over-reaction is all too often the response to what might be seen as perfectly logical in the real world none of the numpties have any comprehension of.

Good Luck on the 16th Dave to you and your supporters.


The Veteran said...

GD ... as a pilot i can say that flying p.i.c. on a suspended license is a serious matter. That aside, one can hope that (given the facts stated as correct) the 'learned' Judge is persuaded to exercise the judgement of Solomon in arriving at his/her decision.

gravedodger said...

Fair Comment Vet I have unverified info that makes the prosecution even more dodgy.
Also Dave and Lee will face considerable ongoing costs whatever happens and they could be crippling.

There are exceptions to suspended pilots acting in life and death situations and my info suggests that had the rescue team not been dropped in and begun their Golden hour work when they did, Scott Lee was probably a dead man.
Lisa McKenzie, Scott Lee and Mike Morrissey are in little doubt that Dave's actions saved Scott's life.
The suspension is under serious challenge and I fear there may be some personal stuff here, a situation not that rare between Private Company Chopper pilots and CAA.

I am very glad I no longer have to deal with the moral and legal bits around responding with the First response team after leaving the part consumed Jug on the leaner at The Tree Fellers Arms to Have Mine Host Eric put a fresh full one up when we returned. Too often there was no one else.

I note an American Airlines scheduled airliner flying from Phoenix to Boston was put down by the co pilot in Syracuse when a trolly dolly failed to resus the now dead Captain. Sometimes things go South really fast.

When it all works out there are heroes and when it doesn't the outlook can become very bleak so fast.

I recall the off duty policeman in The Naki who responded to a panic call for more O2 at a serious crash scene only to have one of the begging ambos request a Breath test on the cop after he had made the mercy dash without incident when alcohol was smelt at delivery, never did hear how that ended.

try www.pprune.org/rotoheads/568736
Published October 5th

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

I may be wrong but my recollection is the cop was charged.