Giving back to the community
South African Gerhard Pistorius loves his work as a Captain with Northland Rescue Helicopter.
Despite landing in New Zealand in 2008, it was not until 2016 when he had finished a Fly In, Fly Out (FIFO) role which took him around the world numerous times, that he joined the Northland team and change his career to focus on piloting helicopter rescues.
However, turn the clock back some decades and he has had quite the career journey.
With degrees in Psychology and Business Management under his belt in the 1990s, Gerhard decided to branch out and join the Air Force to become a pilot. So six years into his military career he began flying helicopters and stayed with the Air Force from 1997 to 2005.
From there he set off on a remarkable adventure when he joined CHC Helicopter, arguably the largest global helicopter services company around, which specialises in three areas of operation: helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul. The company prides itself on getting customers to the remotest of locations and that’s exactly what Gerhard experienced.
From 2005 to 2016 he flew to all seven continents of the world (Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia/Oceania, Europe, North America, and South America).
When Kerikeri quickly became home that same year, his wife Anita buying a local optometry business – firmly cementing the couple in Northland.
Joining the Northland Rescue Chopper crew is a move he describes as the last piece of the puzzle.
With more than 4700 flight hours to his name now, the proud Northlander expects to log thousands more over the years.
“I have been everywhere and seen everything and I want to service my community. This rescue helicopter business is unrivalled as there is nowhere else in the world where you can fly the full set of disciplines.
“You are exposed to so many opportunities and challenges from off-shore search and rescue, to winching and flying Instrument Flight Rules (flying at night and with no visibility). This really is at the high end of profession.
“It gives people the platform to perform their duty to the best of their ability alongside an amazing team of paramedics and other lifeline services. That teamwork gives the patients a fighting chance because the patient would not have often made it through if it was not for us getting the call to help them with urgency and then flying them to safety.”
Gerhard says the work ascends all boundaries because of the satisfaction that comes with helping someone in their time of need.
“Family is very important to us and to be able to give people the best care possible is great, whether it is a mother, a father, a grandparent or a child,” he says.
Perhaps the most challenging job Gerhard has done of late was a winch job at Mangawhai Heads, where victim George Booth would have died from blood loss was it not for the speed of the rescue operation.
Gerhard says it was a great example of collaboration with so many entities working together for a life-saving outcome.
“It was not just us involved. There was Coastguard, the Mangawhai Surf Lifesaving Club, a local yachtie. We all landed on scene at the same time and it was a pretty seamless operation.”
Once George was back on his feet he turned up at the hangar in Whangarei to express his immense gratitude.
It is something Gerhard does many times a year in giving back to the Northland community and he is one of the first to put his hand up to assist with fundraising efforts for Northland Rescue Helicopter.
Away from his work, he enjoys golf, fishing, gardening and mowing lawns.
And of course, hanging out with Anita and their teenagers Lana and Sage.