Highland Helicopters chief pilot and company CEO Paul Williams has close to 5000 flying hours’ experience. About 2300 hours are in the agricultural sector. Paul’s experience includes agricultural spraying, bucket work, fire fighting, frost fighting, long-lining, high altitude operations and passenger transport. He also has experience flying Heli logging operations.
Isle of Man TT 400 lightweight class winner, 1998 & 1999
A young Paul, qualified as an A Grade mechanic, moved from Dunedin to Japan in 1994 to work for a major exporter of second-hand motorcycles. He spent the next six years as a professional rider, winning the Isle of Man TT 400 lightweight class in 1998 and 1999.
1998 – Start position #2, First 400cc and 7th overall
1999 – Start position #1, First 400cc, Fastest qualifier and fastest race lap with a race time of 1hr 23m and 109.01mph average
The transition to helicopter pilot
Recognising motorbike racing was unlikely to carry him through his working life, Paul took his first trial helicopter flight in 1998. He used his racing prize money to fund his commercial pilots licence, which he gained in 2001.
Paul was on his way to America to fly helicopters, when 9/11 happened. He instead returned to New Zealand and, from 2002, spent five years as helicopter ground crew and an air transport pilot, before moving back into the pilot’s seat full time for five years, working in agriculture, commercial and air transport operations.
Papua New Guinea
From 2012 to 2014, Paul was a pilot for Hevilift in Papua New Guinea. Tasks included long-lining drill rigs and base supplies, air transport, plantation payroll drops and frequent medevac operations. It was in PNG that he honed his long-line skills.
Paul returned to New Zealand in 2014, working in agriculture and commercial operations, before he and his wife Kirsty established Highland Helicopters in 2016.
Long-lining in PNG
This clip shows Paul working at 9000ft DA (density altitude) positioning a 150ft line to pick up the top end of a drill rig mast during drill disassembly.Watch video of Paul long-lining in PNG
Approach to flying
Paul was always a strategic racer – physically and mentally fit and calculating in his approach to a race. This high awareness of risk is a quality he has brought across to his career as a helicopter pilot.
Paul’s time in Papua New Guinea further cemented his focus on practical health and safety measures. His employer’s risk management processes were world-class and Highland Helicopters works to an equally robust and sensible health, safety and risk policy.
Administration & Office Support
Highland Helicopters co-owner Kirsty Williams is responsible for the “back room” work that keeps the operation humming.
Kirsty also grew up in Dunedin – in Portobello on the Otago Peninsula. She studied at Otago University from 1990 to 1996, graduating with a Masters in Zoology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Wildlife Management. After university, Kirsty volunteered in Namibia as a research assistant, before returning to
Dunedin to work as an environmental consultant.
In 2001, Kirsty became a qualified massage therapist. In recent years, she has focussed on raising the couple’s three children.
With the establishment of Highland Helicopters, Kirsty’s great people skills, high levels of organisation and attention to detail see her fill the administration and office support roles comfortably.
C Cat Flight Instructor & Ground Crewman
Sid Gorton is another local face on the Highland Helicopters team. He comes from a rural background and is still involved in the family farm. The Taieri Mouth man is responsible for on-the-ground logistics.
A pilot himself, Sid understands how critical attention to detail is. He has worked for the Otago Aero Club – undertaking charter flights, general aerial work (such as aerial photography and forest surveys), as well as instructing. He also worked for Kaikoura Helicopters, piloting off-shore whale watching flights. Sid graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Anthropology) from Otago University, before moving into his flying career.
In 1995, he completed his Commercial Pilots Licence (Aeroplane) and then his instructor qualifications. In 2006, he gained his Commercial Pilot Licence (Helicopter). In 2017, Sid got his C Category Flight Instructor Rating. He is a certified chemical handler (Growsafe) and holds a Dangerous Goods endorsement and Controlled Substance Licence for explosives (Class 1).
At home, Sid is a member of Taieri Mouth First Response Team and on call for marine emergencies with Dunedin Marine SAR.