Budding pilots of the future got to grips with the controls of a Royal New Zealand Navy Seasprite helicopter in Dunedin yesterday.
The helicopter and its crew were using Taieri Airfield as their base for the next three days, while conducting school visits and fisheries operations in Dunedin, coastal areas near the Catlins and elsewhere in Southland.
Otago Aero Club club captain Warwick Sims said the club decided to hold an open day to make the most of the helicopter's presence, which attracted a steady stream of visitors yesterday.
It was believed to be the first time a Seasprite had operated from the aerodrome, and it was joined by an assortment of about 25 other aircraft on display yesterday, he said.
The mix of general aviation aircraft and microlights included gyrocopters, a five-eighths scale model of a World War 2-era Hawker Hurricane and remote-controlled aircraft.
The aim of the day was to convince more people to try their hand at flying, and hopefully boost the club's declining membership of about 170, he said.
Squadron Leader Mark Waters, of Royal New Zealand Air Force's 6 Squadron, based at Whenuapai in Auckland, said the Seasprite SH-2G was a navy-owned aircraft maintained by the air force.
Its crew had recently been involved in mountain flying exercises near Blenheim, but was also trying to visit more outlying New Zealand airfields, he said.
The helicopters could operate off the Navy's frigates or offshore patrol boats, acting as their "eyes and ears" over the horizon, or conduct search-and-rescue operations or perform other duties, he said.
Yesterday's open day drew a good crowd, with plenty of interest in the Seasprite, and he hoped those who gathered around included young pilots of the future.