Passion for aviation drives success

Passion for aviation drives success
The crew: from left, Owen Harvey, Steve Ashcroft, Dean Lithgow, the late David McLaughlin, and Peter Larsen.

Dean Lithgow has never forgotten the memory of being taken for helicopter a flight when he was a four year old – 47 years ago. Licensed to fly rotary wing craft for the last thirty years, the aviation industry is one of two industries that Dean is passionate about, the other being farming.
Balancing dairy and cattle farming on the outskirts of Wanganui with the joy of flying, Dean says there is no place he would rather be than in the sky early in the morning watching the sunrise and the fog lift over the valley. “And it’s being able to help people in times of need when there are floods or fires, search and rescue, those sorts of things.
“We don’t think much about it when we get called to go and do those sorts of tasks. It’s just great to be able to help the community while at the same time doing something you love.”
In late 2016, Dean started a venture that would encompass all he loved about flying and lead to the formation of Wanganui based Mid West Helicopters NZ.
Forming a partnership with fellow pilots Peter Larsen, Owen Harvey, Steve Ashcroft and the late David McLaughlin in 2017, Dean and his partners purchased Hill Country Helicopters and then the helicopter side of Ravensdown Aerowork.
Mid West Helicopters NZ was officially born and given its Civil Aviation Operational certificate on the 1st of April 2018. “Dave McLaughlin was a close friend. I had originally approached him to be our CEO when the business was just in its conceptual stage.
“He took it on board and accepted the role along with its challenges and was growing into the role, absolutely loving it when he passed away suddenly earlier this year.” As Commander-in-Chief Dave held all the responsibilities for finance, operations, human resources and marketing.
After Dave’s untimely death, Dean worked closely with CAA and he cannot applaud them enough for the help and support that they provided to the company.
“They went out of their way to help Mid West Helicopters transition from Dave’s leadership to a new CEO so that we could continue to operate,” he says.

Passion for aviation drives success
Covering the western and lower North Island Mid West Helicopters provides a wide range of aerial services across the area.

Shannon Carr was recently engaged in the role of CEO and brings with her considerable industry experience and a passion for air safety.
Based at Wanganui Airport, Mid West Helicopters NZ operates from a new and purpose built hangar comfortably housing four of the businesses seven helicopters.
Office space and meeting rooms enables the team of six pilots, administration and office staff, engineers and ground crew, a team of 20 in total, to live under the one roof.
Covering the western and lower North Island, essentially Wellington through to Taupo, across to Te Kuiti and out to the coast, Mid West Helicopters provides a wide range of aerial services across the area.
“The bulk of our work is agricultural, encompassing both fertiliser spreading and spraying. We transport fencing materials, poplar poles and those sorts of things.
“We do a lot of contract work for the New Zealand Defense Force, the Department of Conservation and power line work for the local power company.
“We do a lot of fire fighting, general lifting work, air transport, taking hunting parties into the Ruahine Ranges and into the Wanganui National Park, and we do the occasional scenic flight.”
Much emphasis is placed on safety and that is something that Dean is no stranger too.In 2014 Dean initiated a nationwide educational safety awareness campaign called ‘LETS GET EM DOWN’, which encouraged fellow farmers to remove or lower electric fence wires to make the environment safer for aviators.
Gaining the support of Richie McCaw and Greg Murphy was instrumental in the campaign’s success. Dean says safety for Mid West Helicopters is not just about aviation, it is also about the people working in the hangar or walking down the road.
“When Mid West Helicopters was formed it was important for me personally and the team to make sure we got good people around us. “As directors and owners of the business, we support our staff and invest a lot around safety and safety management systems, which is important in aviation.
“I’m probably the happiest now than I have ever been in my flying career and it’s built around having good people around us and a great culture – I just love going to work.”
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