The busiest choppers

The busiest choppers

Photo credit: Lindsay Keats

2018 was a big year. Researchers developed a 10 minute cancer test, 157 new species were discovered in Southeast Asia, Boeing launched a business jet capable of completing the world’s longest commercial flight and SpaceX broke records by launching 64 satellites into orbit – just to name a few highlights.

But it was a big year for the nation’s rescue choppers too. With more than 7,000 rescue missions across New Zealand (from November 2017 – November 2018), the teams were busy making sure we’re all safe in our Chopper Country.

Ever wondered which choppers are the busiest? Check out the top three for 2018 below.



With a massive 1,111 rescue missions in 2018, the Otago region takes the cake. Featuring some of NZ’s most spectacular scenery, Otago offers vast plains, dramatic rivers and remote beaches.

High alpine mountains also surround the Otago region, which contributes to the high number of rescues in this area as people go for hikes in unfamiliar terrain and participate in adventure sports.

“We cover over a quarter of NZ’s land mass in the Otago region and the challenging, long road distances in this area contribute to a lot of the rescue missions. Most areas are much faster to get to in a helicopter versus an ambulance, including Dunedin Hospital where we fly too very often,” says Otago Rescue Helicopter Chief Pilot, Graeme Gale.

“The Otago Chopper has grown with the region, however success isn’t about the amount of rescue missions, it’s about the level of care we offer, giving our patients an efficient, seamless and reliable experience and bringing them back to a good quality of life. We can’t thank the Otago community enough for their support of the Chopper.”



As NZ’s most populous city (33.3 percent of the population), it’s not surprising that Auckland makes the top three. With a total of 962 rescue missions in 2018, the Chopper was busy making sure our largest city was kept safe.

Piha Beach on the West Coast has its own TV show dedicated to its beach rescues because of the rough conditions – this beach alone could have been the reason behind a few of the rescue missions in Auckland.



Known as the least urbanised region in NZ, Northland is framed by the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, and is studded with several long, straight beaches on the west coast.

Northland comes in third place with 918 rescue missions in 2018, and since the Northland area makes up only 5 percent of NZ’s total area, that’s a large number of rescues per square metre.


And the least amount of rescues?

Gisborne took the spot in 2018, with just 91 missions – that’s 1,020 less than Otago. Although some areas of NZ have more rescues than others, make sure you’re being safe no matter where you are this summer and avoid the Chopper paying you a visit.

If you’d like to help keep the Chopper running for future generations, you can make a donation to your local chopper trust at  


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