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Rescue chopper pilot reflects on reaching flying milestone

13 Mar, 2023


thumbnail Sue Dinkelacker-700Ever-smiling Northland Rescue Helicopter pilot Sue Dinkelacker is being congratulated for passing the 10,000 flight hour milestone.

Sue says it is a really humbling achievement as she reflects on her career in the air.

“I am so grateful for my career in helicopters so far. It has taken me on adventures all over earth. I've been privileged to see the world from a unique perspective and to experience extraordinary things. I've touched the clouds, literally,” says Sue.

“If I think back … one of my favourite aspects is the people I've met through flying helicopters and who I have worked with over the years – and still do.

“Flying the Northland Rescue Helicopter is satisfying work. I get to exercise all the varied skills I've picked up over the years.”

Sue says she likes the spontaneity of rescue flying, never knowing when, or in what direction, the next flight will be, nor what might be required. It could be a boat winch, a night landing in the hills or a transfer between hospitals in stormy weather.

“I feel very privileged to be part of such an incredibly professional team whose purpose is to help those in need.”

From her first flight in a helicopter, Sue says she was captivated by the helicopter's sensitive controls and absolute manoeuvrability.

“I simply loved trying to hover – which is such a balancing act – and to swoop forward or back, up or down freely in all three dimensions.

“That feeling of being one with the helicopter, where it seems to fly in response to your thoughts alone is such a wonderful feeling, but tantalisingly illusive. It intrigued me and I became hooked.

“Going solo wasn't nearly enough and getting a full licence just highlighted how much I still had to learn. Perhaps by flying a bit more would allow me to finally master it. I soon realised I either must fly for a living or give it up completely.

“And here I am, ten thousand hours later, still wanting to fly just a little bit more!”

When Sue reached her 10,000th hour on helicopters, it was on a rainy day after dropping a patient off on the Whangarei Hospital helipad. Her co-pilot kindly took a snapshot which she posted on social media, thinking nothing of it but the response has been amazing.

“For some reason (as I know at least a dozen pilots who have lots more hours than me), the post went viral. It got 29,000 ‘likes’ and over 1100 comments. That amounts to about a thousand strangers that thought enough about my personal milestone to write something congratulatory. I just thought wow.”

Sue’s two favourite comments from the post are:

Well done Sue and thanks for your ongoing dedication and teamwork.

n You can read more about Sue’s career at nest.org.nz/susan-dinkelacker/



“I've been privileged to see the world from a unique perspective and to experience extraordinary things.”

- Sue Dinkelacker, rescue helicopter pilot


The moment Sue Dinkelacker hit the 10,000 hour flying  milestone. PHOTO/SUPPLIED


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