Search and Rescue flying has always been a passion for Fergus MacLachlan. “Every pilot prefers certain types of flying; I really enjoy search and rescue,” says the experienced helicopter pilot.
Originally from Te Kuiti in the King Country, flying was never on the cards for Fergus. Instead, his career began with a trade as Machinist Toolmaker. However, the lure of taking to the skies soon got the better of Fergus and he completed his private pilot’s licence at Ardmore Flying School in 2002.
After a period of working in Scotland as an engineer, Fergus moved to Florida, USA, where he not only furthered his love of flying, but also met his wife-to-be. Fergus and Christine, a fellow helicopter pilot herself, spent seven years flying in Florida, Alaska, California, and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a stint flying tourists over the Grand Canyon.
Family brought Fergus and Christine home to New Zealand, originally to the Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter and then to New Plymouth. In 2012, Fergus joined the crew at the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust as a search and rescue pilot with crewman, and now General Manager, Andy Cronin.
After a short stint with the Rescue Helicopter, Fergus began flying offshore with HNZ Global before transferring to Australia as a Marine Pilot Transfer Captain. But the friendships he established during this time with the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter have endured. “One thing about the job of a search and rescue helicopter pilot is that it’s not like a normal job,” Fergus says. “You form strong friendships because you’re continuously working together and relying on one another as a team.”
Fergus is also enjoying the return to search and rescue flying after several years out of the industry. “Although there are fairly strict safety requirements around SAR, the flying is very versatile and a lot of training with the crew is required to maintain a high skill level to enable you to go out there and save a life.”
The move back to Taranaki will also enable Fergus to have more time with his two daughters Rachel and Hannah. “When I was flying in Australia it was three weeks away and three weeks at home. That was tough on the family. This role will enable me to be at home a lot more and that was a key factor in deciding to come back. We’ve got lots of friends from our time here earlier, so it feels like we’re coming home, but at the same time it feels like a new adventure. We’re all looking forward to it.”