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About Us

Our Story

The Top of the South’s largest privately owned helicopter company – Helicopters Nelson has evolved into one of New Zealand’s most well-known and respected aviation companies.

Helicopters Nelson is owned and operated by a large and very passionate aviation family, the Darling family.

Our CEO and Flight Training Manager is Pete Darling, a pilot with over 30 years experience, including 14 years working for two major international operators as multi-engine check and training captain.

Alongside our tourism operations, we also operate commercial helicopter services, fire and emergency services and flight training.

We specialise in creating luxury, tailored and unique helicopter tours in and around the “Top of the South”. We offer helicopter charter services and customised tours to some of the country’s most stunning remote locations – there is no better view of New Zealand than from the skies. Whether you’re looking for a corporate event, an active adventure or a romantic escape – anything is possible with Helicopters Nelson.

Your comfort and safety are paramount to us. Our professional pilots have a wealth of experience and local knowledge.

We primarily fly from our base at Nelson Airport but often fly in and out of lodges, venues or private properties nation wide.

Like many of our guests, you’ll want to tell your friends all about it!

Every flight with Helicopters Nelson is an unforgettable one.

Working together with FENZ to provide a rural rapid response in the top of the south

Firefighters with specialist cutting gear will now be flown to car crashes and other serious incidents in the top of the south.

Fire and Emergency NZ (Fenz) Nelson fire station officer Kevin O’Connor​ said the new rural rapid response initiative meant a four-person crew with equipment to free people who are trapped would be flown to incidents by Helicopters Nelson.

Meet the Crew

Pete Darling

Owner, CEO and Flight Training Manager

I have been flying helicopters for the past 24 years. The first 8 years of my career was spent flying single engine helicopters throughout New Zealand. The past 14 years I have worked for two major international operators in the capacity of a multi engine check and training captain.

I hold both single engine and multi engine flight examiner ratings for New Zealand and Australia and have managed several bases both VFR and IFR.

Having a share in Helicopters Nelson gives me an opportunity to expand areas I have a passion for such as hunting and fishing along with the expanding Heli mountain bike market.

I’m enjoying the change from flying medium multi engine helicopters and getting back to grass roots instructing with our ab initio students.

Thomas Darling

Operations Manager

I am the Operations Manager at Helicopters Nelson and one of the flight training instructors. I started out flying Helicopters in Nelson in 2014. I’ve flown extensively in Botswana, Africa and throughout New Zealand. Our combined experience ensures that you will receive the utmost in safety coupled with extensive knowledge of our area and nation-wide. I have a strong passion for the outdoors and love to share this with our clients exploring the “Top of the South”.

Charlie Rowe

Line Pilot

I am a line pilot at Helicopters Nelson. I started in the aviation industry when I was 17, gained my licence at 19 and have been flying commercially in Nelson ever since. Growing up in Nelson and flying in the area for the past 7 years has given me considerable knowledge of the area. I enjoy sharing this knowledge with people as I believe Nelson is such a unique area within New Zealand.

Theo Darling


Flying to remote locations and being able to access hard-to-reach places is what I love most about my job as a helicopter pilot.  Sharing these experiences with visitors to our beautiful region gives me great joy and pride.

Logan Darling

Ground Crew and Trainee Pilot

I am ground crew for Helicopters Nelson and I’m also a trainee pilot with the flight school side of operations at Helicopters Nelson.  Flying is my passion and I’m excited to be joining the family business.

Our Fleet

Helicopters Nelson operate a versatile fleet of modern helicopters. We primarily use Airbus helicopters for our Tourism sector; they are lined with state of the art leather interior and soft carpet, along with a compact cabin to allow every passenger the opportunity to enjoy the views through the large windows.

Airbus AS350 (A-Star)

Cruise Speed: 110 knots / 205 kilometres per hour
Passenger payload including baggage: Comfortable 580 kg / 1280 lbs
Seating Configuration: Our AS350 helicopters are equiped with dual front seats allowing us to take six passengers. The dual front seat has a two person max weight limit of 154kg or 120kg for a single person. There are also four seats along the back row.

Robinson R44

Cruise Speed: 100 knots / 185 kilometres per hour
Passenger payload including baggage: Comfortable 220 kg / 485 lbs
Seating Configuration: Our Robinson helicopters can take up to three passengers. One in the front along side the pilot and two in the back. All of the seats are window seats and the design of the R44 cabin and windows allows for excellent viewing.

Our Safety Record

Helicopters Nelson has a 100% safety record.

Helicopters Nelson pilots are highly experienced flying in mountain and coastal terrain.

Our fleet of aircraft are maintained to the highest standard.

Helicopters Nelson’s owners have over 30 years aviation experience.

Helicopters Nelson complies with all Civil Aviation requirements.

Helicopters Nelson has been awarded Qualmark gold.

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