Thirsty Black Bird
We were low on fuel as we approached KeriKeri (upper north-east of North Island) when Kenyon spotted a rather large black shadow soaring across the road ahead of us. Heads up! New Zealand’s newest Eurocopter AS350B2 Squirrel, carrying 6 passengers, was just about to make a landing in a quiet roadside paddock.
We pulled over to get a closer look. Dramatically winding down from a cool cruising speed of 125 knots, pilot Tony Monk flares out a smooth touchdown. What could possibly beat this treat today?
We really enjoyed the time Tony spent chatting with us about the B2 as it patiently rested in its grassy nest. Thanks for the offer of a free lift back to Auckland Tony! We so wanted the flight. The photographic and filming opportunities would have been GREAT, but sadly we had to babysit the 4WD. We were truly grounded this time. Wasn’t the 4WD old enough to make its own way from here – bloody thing? We both felt very much like two kids in a candy store with the wrong currency in hand. With huge amounts of sorrow, and three long seconds later, the importance of what we were here to do came flooding back to both of us. We desperately needed to find some Toddler Gold for our 4WD. It probably needed a change too after the overhead landing alone. We looked at each other and agreed that Tony’s offer of a free 40 minute joy ride would have to be graciously declined.
For those who may not know, the B2 burns 190 liters of jet fuel per hour. That’s NZ$440 per hour (AUD$340). Operational costs are around AUD $2000 p/h.
All questions answered, we said goodbye. Sure, some might say it’s just another helicopter, but just try standing 50 feet away from it while she takes to the skies. Jackets flapping and caps flying off both of our heads – we steadied ourselves in reverse. Whoa! A muscle climb worthy of anyones respect.
After watching her fade into a stormy backdrop, Ken reached inside his jacket pocket for the keys. Heads down, we slowly got back into the car and made our way to KeriKeri.