Gisborne is like a home-away-from-home for Kurt Schierning, and that is just as well.
By the end of August he had spent six weeks covering for a Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter pilot who was on extended leave.
And he was due back in mid-September to offer a month’s cover for another of the team’s pilots who was due for a break.
It’s critical work: the team of three (soon to be four) Gisborne pilots have had a hectic few months of rescue missions and their schedule won’t let up any time soon.
“But I love coming here,” says Kurt, who contracts through the Search and Rescue Services Ltd (SRSL) company co-owned by Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust (EHRT).
“It was my home base when I was flying in Papua New Guinea and I still have family here, so it’s great to come and settle in for a while.”
Even EHRT’s hangar, at Gisborne Airport, is familiar ground for Kurt. From early 2020 he spent 18 months as part of the Eastland Rescue Helicopter team before going back to his property in Central Otago.
In recent times he has worked as both line pilot and training manager for Queenstown operator Heliworks.
Next year, however, he may be more grounded as he and his partner plan to relocate to run a family farm near Dunedin.
“But even then I’m hoping to keep up with a bit of contract flying,” he says. “It’s always a great excuse to come back to Gisborne!”
CAPTION: Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter cover pilot Kurt Schierning.