Rescued hunter supports 'hero' pilot in court

Rescued hunter supports 'hero' pilot in court

A helicopter pilot who flew two rescue missions without holding a current medical certificate has pleaded guilty to three charges laid by the Civil Aviation Authority.

But the man Dave Armstrong rescued says if he hadn't made the flight he'd have died in remote Kaikoura bush.

Scott Lee says he owes his life to Armstrong. He was in court today to support the helicopter pilot as he faced three charges of flying rescue missions without a current medical certificate last year. 

One of those missions was to pluck Mr Lee from a valley after other pilots were unable to get close enough.

"He had to make that split decision to get up there and save me and that's what he did," says Mr Lee.

Inside the court, Armstrong entered guilty pleas through his lawyer Craig Ruane.

"At the end of the day I did do it, what's the point in saying I didn't do it," says Armstrong.

The 63-year-old pilot flew two rescue missions in April last year – in the second, Mr Lee was the hunter with a badly broken leg, but the Westpac rescue chopper couldn't locate him.

In deteriorating conditions and fading light, Armstrong piloted his Robinson 44 helicopter into the remote Puhi Puhi Valley several times with eight search and rescue personnel on board who located Mr Lee soon after.

Armstrong says he's been overwhelmed by the ground swell of support from people who don't believe he should have been charged.

"It's quite humbling. I'd like to see this done and dusted and out of the way, we'd all like to just try and get back on with our lives," says Armstrong.

He says the charges have the potential to make other pilots think twice before going to the aid of others.

"It's one of those things where this country has to sit up and look at the future of anyone  going to help or assist anyone  in any role. We'll end up being a nation who don't give a rats about anybody."

Armstrong has applied for a discharge without conviction. That'll be heard in Christchurch in December, and Mr Lee will be there supporting the man he calls a hero all the way.

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