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Aoraki Mount Cook scenic flight operations expand

Media release from Aoraki Mount Cook Ski Planes Ltd
17 December 2008

Aoraki Mount Cook scenic flight operations expand

The majestic beauty of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is more accessible than ever from above with the news that Kiwi tourism icon Mt Cook Ski Planes is expanding into scenic helicopter flights.

The 58 year old company formalised an alliance with Heliworks Queenstown Helicopters today (17 December) which means Mt Cook Ski Planes will be able to offer both ski plane and helicopter flights within the National Park.

Mount Cook Ski Planes owners Alec Miller and Richard Royds formed the alliance in order to offer customers more choice. They also believe it’s a great opportunity for both companies to broaden their base of operations.

Ski Plane landing on Tasman Glacier

“This is a real milestone for us. One of the challenges with fixed wing operations has always been the variable weather and snow conditions but the introduction of helicopters will significantly extend our percentage of operating days,” says Mr Royds. “We’re delighted to have formed an alliance with such a highly respected operator.”

Scenic flight specialist Heliworks mainly operates in Queenstown, Fiordland and the Southern Lakes. It is also the country’s biggest provider of helicopter services to the New Zealand film industry.

The new helicopter operations will be fully blended with fixed wing flights and both will be based at Aoraki Mount Cook Airport, 5km from Mount Cook Village.

Initially helicopter flights will parallel the ski plane routes and Mount Cook Ski Planes will be responsible for managing all flights and landings to ensure minimum visual and noise impacts.

Helicopter flying through Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

“One of the major attractions of a ski plane flight is shutting down the engine once we land and enjoying the silence on the glacier. It’s very important to us to ensure that this extraordinary and unique experience isn’t compromised,” says Mr Royds.

Mount Cook Ski Planes, the only company in the world to offer year-round ski plane operations, is an integral part of the New Zealand’s tourism history and has been thrilling generations of New Zealanders and overseas visitors since 1955.

Mr Royds says it all started when tourism pioneer Harry (later Sir Henry) Wigley made aviation history on 22 September 1955 with the first snow landing on the Tasman Glacier.

“It was a landmark occasion and made even more special by the fact that Sir Edmund Hillary happened to be staying at The Hermitage at the time and was one of Harry’s passengers later that day. Visitors to Mount Cook can still view the original Auster aircraft with its homemade retractable skis hanging in the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. When you see how small the Auster is you can appreciate that fitting Sir Ed into the tiny cockpit was quite an achievement considering his stature!”

Over the years Mount Cook Ski Planes has been used extensively not only for tourist flights for hut building, servicing, and search and rescue operations. It currently undertakes airborne tracking of endangered species for the Department of Conservation and plays a key role in providing positioning flights for climbers taking on Aoraki Mount Cook or other peaks around the national park.

Operations continue with the support and supervision of the Department of Conservation. Mt Cook Ski Planes works with DOC to minimise impacts to recreationists within the park by paying particular attention to flight routes, altitudes and operating procedures.


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