Tweety the helicopter has flown heroically off into the sunset for the last time.

Update from pilot Hughie...

Tweety. ZK-HOQ. The Hughes 500 helicopter formerly owned by Greenpeace has been lost in an accident in New Zealand. She was sold by Greenpeace and was in private ownership when the accident happened. The pilot survived.

I took over flying duties on Tweety after Paula retired from Greenpeace. For me, it was one of the most memorable times of my life – going all over the world and documenting beauty and atrocities, working with governments and universities, on a wide variety of projects. To me, Tweety was a part of everyday life, and I knew every nut and bolt on her. She seldom grumbled, and never let us down - although I do remember my passenger having to hit a jammed starter motor with the fire axe when we were in the Amazon jungle - she started, and we got back to the ship!

In the Arctic she took us to inaccessible areas on glaciers, and guided the Arctic Sunrise out of the pack ice – in the Antarctic she witnessed some of the atrocities being inflicted during whale hunting. She was flown on virtually every line of latitude capturing images and documenting current affairs whether they were local or international.

Photography was her greatest asset, and some of the shots taken by world class photographers hang in many famous buildings all over the world. She had the ability to fly in most sorts of conditions, and as such we were able to venture into places never before visited. One which comes to mind is in the high glaciers in Patagonia where we flew one morning. We went up into the mountains, climbing through sleet and mist, watching the Arctic Sunrise disappear in the gloom below, wondering what lay ahead. What we found as we popped out of the mist in the ice canyons was a world beyond belief – blue sky with not a cloud in site, just snow capped peaks and ice fields - the top of the world. We were so in awe that we landed on a flat peak and shut the engine down. The silence was absolute. No wind, no clouds, no noise, we didn’t dare speak. It was like the most fantastic film set - except it was real.

It may seem strange to some folk, but I feel that I have lost a close friend, someone who looked after me and my crew in some of the most inhospitable places in the world.

I have a scale model hand crafted and given to me as a present so, in a small way, in my home, she lives on!

-- Hughie the Pilot.



Slideshow – Tweety in action

Tweety speaks for herself


News story about the crash

A few more photos of Tweety from long ago