Wanaka helicopters graduate profiles

Here at Wanaka Helicopters we have trained over 600 students either completing their CPL, PPL, Diploma in Aviation or advancing their training.

Because of our high reputation in the industry, our unique and thorough approach to flight training and our highly experienced flight instructors our graduates have a high employability rates post their training. You can read a selection of just some of our graduates own unique post graduate profiles below.

Jeremy INGLE

Jeremy was lucky to grow up around aviation so it is no wonder he decided to later study the Diploma in Aviation. Both of his parents worked as air traffic controllers which meant he was exposed to a range of different aircraft from a young age. “I’ve always loved anything to do with aviation, I was always going to do something along that line, however helicopters were always the main attraction for me”. 

Pursuing a career as a helicopter pilot was made possible with the ability to apply for an interest free student, eligible with the Diploma program. Securing this funding, Jeremy enrolled in the Diploma in Aviation and transferred to Wanaka Helicopters in 2015 after starting training with another training school, “I had heard about Wanaka helicopters level of training before and I was instantly very keen to finish my training there”. 

Jeremy most enjoyed sling load flying “Sling was a highlight of my training, the best part of Wanaka Helicopters training is the emphasis on practical training I believe that makes you very employable because it means you can arrive at your first job ready to work”. After successfully completing the Diploma of Aviation in December 2015, Jeremy moved back to Christchurch for a short time. 

Jeremy heard through Wanaka Helicopters industry networks about a job opening in Australia, within a week he was on a plane heading for a working trial. A successful work trial culminated in a job offer to being his piloting career flying Robinson 44 helicopters. After six months he was offered a rating to fly H130 helicopters. Jeremy has steadily built his flight time to over 500 hours in the last year and a half. 

“The thing I love most about flying is that you are in an ever changing office, whether it is where you are flying on any given day or the weather conditions you are flying in”.

Jeremy’s dream is to eventually work back in the South Island of New Zealand flying passengers in and around the spectacular Southern Alps. 


Charlotte remembers the day her aviation career began, undertaking a trial flight at Wanaka Helicopters. Charlotte undertook private training at Wanaka Helicopters to gain her commercial licence and was determined to have a job she loved. Wanaka Helicopters was an obvious place for her to train, being from Queenstown. However the opportunity to learn to fly in the mountains and with experienced instructors was a big factor. “My research told me Wanaka Helicopters is the best training provider in NZ. Not only that you are flying around one of the most beautiful places. When you are not training you are enjoying everything Central Otago has to offer skiing, hiking, boating and so much more!” 

After completing her commercial licence in 2015. Charlotte worked at Heliworks Queenstown Helicopters/Southern Lakes Helicopters and is now loving her new role at Volcanic Air in Rotorua. 

Charlotte describes her typical day: “I start my day preflighting my assigned helicopter and talk with the office staff to get any last minute details for the job. An example would be flying down to Huka Lodge in Taupo. I would fly them over geothermal areas on the way to White Island where we do a tour around NZ’s most active volcano. We might then stop on the beach close to Whakatane for a picnic. On the way back to Huka lodge we would land up on Mt Tarawera which last erupted in 1886 taking in the views overlooking the many lakes surrounding Rotorua and the rift that splits the mountain in two. After dropping my clients back I will then fly back to our hangar at Rotorua Airport, clean and tidy the machine all ready for the next flight”. The best aspects of her new role include flying most days, the coastal scenery, meeting lots of interesting people and the challenge.

Charlotte would eventually love to get involved with search and rescue or a medical helicopter pilot role. If you are thinking about becoming a helicopter pilot she encourages you to do a trial flight and talk to people in the industry. “Most pilots live and breathe their job so it’s not a decision to be made lightly – you need to really love aviation, it’s a journey not a sprint”. 


Jared’s fascination with helicopters came as a child when the local search and rescue helicopter was based next to his house. Thinking helicopters were “pretty cool” he had some private lessons in his early twenties, bought a logbook and was soon hooked on flying. Taking advantage of an interest-free student loan, Jared decided the Diploma in Aviation (Helicopter) was the perfect training to start his aviation career. After starting flight training at another school Jared transferred to the Wanaka Helicopters Diploma Programme in 2015.

Jared most enjoyed being able to learn to fly in an environment people come from all around the world to see. The challenges of technical mountain flying, nearby low fly training zones, high flight hours of instructors, and the family atmosphere we provide made it a great fit for him. Jared found the additional courses undertaken during the Diploma useful, particularly those around safety management systems and crew resource management. Jared says “At the time I didn’t know when I would ever use some of the content but it has proven really valuable in my current job based in Papua New Guinea.” 

The perfect job rarely shows up right after graduation. So Jared juggled truck driving while taking on part-time ground crew, frost protection and maintenance flight operations for a New Zealand operation after completing his Diploma. Within a few months however, an opportunity
he couldn’t refuse came knocking! Putting his best foot forward in his CV, adding some great references from our instructors and a willingness to move quickly resulted in a job flying Bell 212’s in Papua New Guinea. Starting within a week of applying, Jared was off to Port Moresby with a three year contract working for an operator that supplies helicopter services to the Papua New Guinea defence force.

Jared’s work involves moving defence force personnel around for border protection, soldier deployment into areas of civil unrest and operating a winch capable helicopter for search and rescue. A very mountainous and remote terrain with dense rainforest up to 14,000ft means helicopters are the easiest way to transport personnel and equipment around the country. In his third year of duty he will focus on work around oil and gas operations undertaking pipeline surveillance and personnel transport in a Bell 412 Helicopter. 

Jared’s goal is to work long lining with twin engine helicopters and to eventually be a pilot back in Wanaka or Queenstown “The Helicopter Capital of New Zealand!”

liam mcmillan

Liam grew up in and around airfields and aeroplanes, coming from a family passionate about aviation. Both his Grandfathers were pilots which had a profound influence on his ambition to follow a career in aviation. 

Making the decision to become a helicopter pilot over fixed wing came very last minute. Thinking carefully about the type of work and flying he wanted to do in the future, cemented his decision on helicopters. “The things you can do in helicopters is awesome, fixed wing is a little more restrictive and boring”. 

Opting to study the Diploma in Aviation at Wanaka Helicopters, Liam took up the benefits of getting a student loan to help fund his training. He felt the diploma course was a good fit and the location and reputation of Wanaka Helicopters is what sold Liam to start study. “Getting the best training with industry leaders and training with the Spencer-Bower’s influenced my final decision to train in Wanaka”. 

The consistency of a structured learning environment on site at the airport everyday provided familiarity with instructors and the opportunity to learn within the commercial environment. “I really enjoyed the balance of study and social comradery of my classmates”. He also enjoyed the practical experience assisting on commercial operations and mountain training was a special highlight. 

Liam gained his first ground crew role at Wellington Helicopters within a month of graduating from Wanaka Helicopters in 2017. The courses delivered around safety, risk management and dangerous goods were particularly useful in his first role. After six months experience he is now flying full-time in Botswana. 

Flying in Botswana is a mixture of charter transfers and scenic safaris. “I find the work interesting and fun, I am currently flying an R44 helicopter about 70 hours a month during the peak season” Liam hopes to move into flying a Jet Ranger after about 18 months. He enjoys working in tourism and utilises his extensive hospitality experience to connect with clients. ‘“No two days are the same and I enjoy seeing different things each day of flying, learning about the African wildlife”. 

A typical day sees him staying in the pilots quarters of a tourist camp taking clients on scenic safaris exploring the local landscape and looking for wild animals. Planning to work in Botswana for a few years Liam then plans to head to Canada to undertake utility flying. Like many of his classmates his ultimate goal is to work amongst the mountains around Queenstown and Wanaka.