9 Mar 2012

Formal blessing for first of Air Force's new helicopters

9:59 pm on 9 March 2012

The first of a new fleet of Air Force helicopters has arrived in Wellington for a formal blessing.

By late next year, the Air Force will have eight new $60 million NH90 helicopters to take over from the ageing Iroquois.

The helicopters are two-and-a-half years' late, but despite that, Squadron Leader Chris Andrew says the NH90s are magic to fly.

They are bigger and can fly further, faster and more safely in worse weather conditions than the Iriquois.

Squadron Leader Andrew says there have been problems overseas with the aircraft, especially its floor, but these are a later version, and those problems have been fixed.

Chief of the Air Force, Air Vice Marshall Peter Stockwell says the choppers have been the most expensive and the most sophisticated new aircraft New Zealand has bought since the 1960s.

He says despite the Defence Force wage freeze, the helicopters are providing a significant morale booster.

The choppers will be used in anti-terrorism work, disaster relief, and search and rescue, but it will be 18 months before they replace the Iriquois.