Wanaka pilot Simon Spencer-Bower takes to the skies yesterday after earlier in the week clocking up 20,000 flying hours. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Wanaka Helicopters owner Simon Spencer-Bower is modest about
his many aviation achievements, but even he could confess to
being a little proud of his latest one - this week reaching
20,000 flying hours.
After returning from a routine helicopter flight on Tuesday,
Mr Spencer-Bower (64) casually announced to his unsuspecting
staff, including wife Carolyn and children Chris, Pete and
Charlotte, who all work for the company, that he had just
reached the massive milestone.
While his family had known he was approaching 20,000 hours in
the air, he had kept the final countdown under wraps.
''He doesn't like a big fuss,'' Mrs Spencer-Bower said.
The flight on which the clock finally rolled over involved
dropping off bikes and riders on the Pisa Range for a
heli-biking outing. He had not told his passengers of the
significance of the journey either, but did celebrate later
with ''a few beers'' at the company's base at Wanaka Airport.
''The first 1000 hours is always a nice milestone ... then
the second milestone would be 10,000, and I never thought I'd
get to 20,000,'' he said.
There is a long list of accolades in Mr Spencer-Bower's
equally lengthy flying career, which began when he was aged
His safety culture and emphasis on maintaining high pilot
standards have earned him much praise over the years. He
initially flew aeroplanes, before developing an interest in
helicopters in 1980, and has spent about 2000 hours flying
fixed-wing aircraft and 18,000 hours in helicopters,
including nearly 15,000 in Robinson R22 or R44 models.
Several years ago, he was recognised by the Robinson
Helicopter company as holding the world record for the most
flying hours in Robinson R22 helicopters.
''And what is pretty amazing is that for all that time in the
air they've [R22s] never let me down.''
In fact, there has been just one minor accident in all Mr
Spencer-Bower's aviation exploits, which was caused by a
He has also logged about 12,000 hours flying in the
instructor's seat while training 530 private and commercial
pilots, a role he considers among the most rewarding aspects
of his job.
''The hardest thing for a young pilot is to get that first
magic 1000 hours, because then they're employable around the
world. And here am I with all this excess of hours which I
wish I could give to them.''
His vintage aviation accomplishments include third place in
the world in 1985 at the world Tiger Moth aerobatic
championships and winning the New Zealand Tiger Moth title 15
He received the individual award at the Director of Civil
Aviation Awards in 2002, the New Zealand Airline Pilots'
Association's Greg Vujcich Memorial Award in 2009 for his
aviation record and outstanding contribution as a flight
instructor, and the Queen's Service Medal for services to
flight training in 2010.