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Bill Black – Aviation Legend And Great Friend Of DOC

Department of Conservation Director General Lou Sanson today paid tribute to Fiordland helicopter ace Bill Black MBE who passed away this week.

“Bill was a brilliant pilot, largely self-taught who was a pioneer in deer recovery and who saved countless lives in completing more than 500 search and rescue missions.

Highly respected by Rakiura Maori, Bill was recognised for transporting iwi and birds to the Rakiura Titi Islands.

“He is less well known for his massive contribution to conservation where his flying skills played a key role in DOC’s Kakapo recovery work in the 1970s.

“Sharing stories with DOC colleagues, Bill is remembered as a gruff but lovely guy who was always there to help – ‘just don’t slam the doors’.

“Bill smoked while flying. He possessed the ability to roll a durry or pack a pipe while flying the helicopter with his knees.

“Based out of Te Anau, Bill is credited at one stage in his career with the most helicopter hours as a pilot in the world.

“In the late 90s, he clocked up something like 27,000 hours flying. If that was in a car travelling at 100km an hour, you would have been sitting behind the wheel 24/7 for 1,125 days and travelled 2.7 million kms.

“Another DOC mate told me of the time they asked Bill about the conditions and were things okay? His reply, ‘listen mate if I’m OK – you’re OK – got it’. Which pretty much sums up Bill and the total confidence you had in him when you were in the air.

Awarded an MBE, Bill was also awarded the prestigious Jean Batten Memorial Trophy for his outstanding contribution to New Zealand Aviation.

“This week I will be dusting off Bill’s book ‘I did it my way”, compiled and edited by Merv Halliday and remembering a kiwi legend with much love and fondness,” says Lou Sanson.

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