Pin-point precision with Precision Helicopters

Nicola Tims
November 1, 2021

The Precision Helicopters story begins back in the late 90's, with husband and wife duo Matt and Tammy Newton. From a shed on a farm in Urenui, Taranaki, a rural suburb in New Zealand, the Newton's started out leasing helicopters to carry out aerial contracting work. Growth quickly followed to the present day and PHL now employs over a dozen staff, across multiple bases across the country.

Growing up on the West Coast of the North Island, Newton worked as a farmer from the time he left school, and occasionally came into contact with helicopters (as you do when you’re in the rural  backcountry). “It’s a really good way of getting up hills!” Newton recalls.

A helicopter was stationed on the property for some time, doing seismic survey work for the government. Intrigued, Newton would hang around the aircraft and its fuelling truck, and struck it lucky with a friendly pilot and picked up more time in the cockpit. After their bond, the pilot tore off the top of a cigarette packet and wrote down Nelson Aviation College on it, which is where his own journey began.

From the North to the South - and back

Newton’s inspiration came from his father’s own experience post WWII, where after coming home to New Zealand, he returned back to London to find his partner (who had since married since his departure). So, he decided to purchase an aeroplane - and fly it all the way back to New Zealand!

Newton still has the plane to this day, which is fully restored.

Through his first job, Newton got his agricultural rating, then progressed to work with rescue helicopter services, also gaining experience with working alongside police, and then when he moved on to oil and gas, he decided to start his own company.

Agriculture, oil and gas are the foundations of the work that Precision Heli provides services for. 

As Chief Pilot / CEO, Newton’s in his element when he gets to spend time in his ‘cocoon of happiness.’ “It’s the greatest thing you could ever do.”

Precision Helicopters’ main office is in New Plymouth, where all bases use Spidertracks to keep track of their fleet, active flights, and knowing exactly where their team is at all times.

“I can see what everyone is doing during the day, and in real-time. It doesn’t take long to unravel things. If someone is late, if someone goes down, or if something goes wrong, it’s very easy to figure out where they are.”

Location, location, location

Newtown lives in Hokitika, which is one of six bases located throughout the country. He made the shift down south from Taranaki to chase the adventure in the Southern Alps and surround himself with new surroundings.

Geographically placed in a valley, surrounded by postcard scenery, there isn’t a lot of flat country, which is why Newton chose to base one of his locations there. Locally deemed helicopter country, their work sees them flying for recreational transport, including the carry of kayaks and other equipment. They also get the chance to meet many people from different industries; conservationists, miners, farmers, and recreationalists to name a few.

With coverage spanning the entire country, visibility is key to ensuring the team’s safety. “Embracing modern technology and bringing this into aviation gives us the ability to have a remote basis and continue to work effectively.”

Diversity is the key to survival

Pre-Covid, the team at Precision would have an array of work such as tourist flights, equipment transport and agricultural work, however the advent of Covid has destroyed the tourism side of the business. Fortunately, they have a strong agricultural sector and good local clients to keep them ticking over until the borders are open.

With Newton’s extensive experience in aviation, and connection with many different people across different industries as well, he shares one of his fond memories with us.

“I was given the opportunity to fly Tom Cruise around when he was here filming for The Last Samurai. Once we got to know each other, every weekend we would go on adventures [with the children and his partner at the time] out to a remote waterfall for instance, quiet beaches, or go horse trekking or quad biking. Tom loved cruising around in the chopper and landing at breathtaking destinations where he and the family could enjoy the peaceful tranquility in privacy. We had a great time that left a lasting impression. When Tom came back to New Zealand a few years ago to film Mission Impossible, our family was spoiled with a weekend getaway in Queenstown. It was mint!”

To see how Spidertracks can improve the visibility of your aircraft, schedule a free demo with us today.

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