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The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

NZALPA offshore helicopter pilot celebrates 10 years in ‘dream job’

NZALPA member and helicopter pilot Alex Carroll will soon celebrate 10 years in his dream job as an offshore pilot for Helicopter New Zealand (HNZ).

“I always knew HNZ was where I wanted to go,” Carroll said. “I see it as the best opportunity for offshore helicopter pilots. Daily I get to work with a group of committed professionals who are dedicated to what they do.”

Carroll began his role at HNZ, with an eight-week placement in Burma to support its offshore oil and gas operations.

“It was such a privilege to work in Burma,” Carroll said. “It’s an awesome country and the work was great.”

On the way back he completed a ferry flight service to Australia, before returning to the New Plymouth base and settling into a role in which he services the oil and gas operations off the Taranaki and Napier coasts. Carroll flies an Augusta Westland AW139, 14-seat (including two crew) medium-sized twin-engine helicopter and, day-to-day, he works with a team of 10 experienced pilots to complete 3 to 8 hours of flying.

“It can be a pretty full-on day in the saddle,” he said. “But the team are the ultimate professionals.” 

Like most pilots, Carroll feels as though he was born to fly. But it was fixed-wing planes rather than choppers that kick-started his career in aviation.

For as long as Carroll can remember, he’s always wanted to be a pilot.

As a school leaver, he attended Massey University School of Aviation completing the three-year course to graduate with his Commercial Pilots Licence and C-Category instructors’ licence in 1994.

With the degree completed, he took a role within operations and dispatch and also spent time ground lecturing for trainees at Massey.

But the lure of the beating rotary blades wasn’t far away and, in 1996, Carroll attended Heli-Flight in Masterton to complete his training.

“I’ve always been interested in helicopters, but it was the people in the industry that encouraged me to make the switch,” Carroll said.

“They are a welcoming and practical bunch.”

Upon graduation, he spent time instructing at Heli-Flight and then in Auckland in a similar role. It was during his time there that he completed his Airline Transport Pilot Licence with Advanced Flight Theory (AFT).  

After working at Heli-Flight in Auckland, Carroll took up his dream job at HNZ in 2007, for which he services offshore oil and gas operations.

HNZ company services also include mineral exploration, marine pilot transfer services, military support, charter services, utilities, flight training and search and rescue.

Carroll has been a member of NZALPA since 2008, joining initially to take advantage of the insurances available and negotiated on members’ behalf.

“NZALPA offered me access to the life and disability insurances I needed,” Carroll said. “They are usually limited to people who are applying personally due to perceived high risk.

“NZALPA has access to better insurance cover and works with suppliers that understand the mitigations we have in place for risk.”

Since then, Carroll has also worked with NZALPA Advocate Tom Buckley to complete collective bargaining with HNZ.

“NZALPA has a skillset that we wouldn’t usually have access to,” Carroll said. “They can provide representation when you need them.”

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