Steve Couchman has a huge amount of respect for the Intensive Care and Critical Care Paramedics he works with at the Northland Rescue Helicopter.

And for a bloke who has been flying our choppers on and off since late 2000 he has a fair few flight hours to reflect on.

Steve first joined the service in late 2000. He left in 2005 for a stint in Australia before joining Westpac Rescue in Auckland. Along the way he flew peace keeping missions in the Solomon Islands and for Rescue Helicopter services in Gisborne and Hawkes Bay. He returned to the North in 2009.

He currently holds a number of roles and titles – Base Manager Whangarei, Deputy Flight Operations Manager NRHL, NRHL Accident Investigator, Northland Rescue Helicopter Flight Instructor and Captain.

But what gives him the most satisfaction is helping people in their time of need.

“I have always liked helicopters. Vertical flight to me is the ultimate aircraft. You are able to see the countryside. It’s challenging and there is a real satisfaction and sensation that flying has on your body. I really enjoy it.

“One of the ultimate uses of a helicopter is winching. We are using a whole collaboration of skills together when you are winching to boats and into the bush. When you are flying a winch job you are very aware things could easily go wrong so we are constantly doing a lot of risk assessment.

But ironically, he did not set out to obtain his Air Transport Pilot Licence upon leaving school. Instead he first undertook 4 years of what could be called an extended “OE” in Australia and Europe. After a further 2 years of intense saving he paid for and completed his pilot’s licence in 1995.

From there he worked in the Northern Territory (as ground crew and flying a small helicopter stock mustering) and then Sydney (patrolling high pressure gas pipelines from the air), then as a co-pilot based out of Sale, East of Melbourne), flying to 16 offshore oil rigs. In nine months Steve flew 650 hours in an S76. The next step was Northland Rescue Helicopter’s sole S76.

In recent years, Steve has also enjoyed the management side of his various roles in the rapidly changing air ambulance sector.

His aviation career is a far cry from his Hastings upbringing and his time at Karamu High School but Steve plans to keep at it for many years yet – along with his penchant for mountain biking, gym, hunting and boating.


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