Helicopter pilot confirms plans

New Zealand resident and helicopter pilot Rodger McCutcheon has confirmed plans to return to Samoa after a two-year absence.

Responding to questions from the Samoa Observer, Mr. McCutcheon said he made the post on the Samoa Helicopters Limited Facebook page last Friday, which announced his intentions.

He said his priority is to get approval from local authorities to fly again and he knows it will not be an easy task, mindful of events two years ago, when his firm Samoa Helicopters Ltd closed its doors in Apia and he packed up and left.  

“I'm humbled by the support and grateful for the opportunity to start up again, should the local Civil Aviation authorities approve.  I have an excellent team ready to go, but the process must be done correctly,” he said.

“The first priority is to meet with the authorities and go through the regulatory processes to get flying again. I achieved an enormous amount of work in a short time we operated prior to being forced to shut down, so hopefully with local ownership stability, we can once again get the operation back, even better than before.”

Local businessman Samoa Roy Lee — who bought the helicopter from the Ministry of Revenue through a public auction — told the Samoa Observer yesterday that he has no connections to the previous owners of the aircraft. 

Last Friday, a post was made on the Facebook page of Mr. McCutcheon’s old company, announcing plans to return to the country. 

Mr. McCutcheon was the founder and principal of then company Samoa Helicopters Ltd, which was established in 2016 but folded after six months of operation. It operated a helicopter — a model AS350VA which was manufactured in 1981 — which it used for medical evacuation and search and rescue services with the support of the Samoa Government. But the business was shutdown and Mr. McCutcheon forced to leave, with the Ministry of Revenue taking possession of the aircraft. 

In December last year, the Ministry of Revenue announced that it will sell the helicopter in a public auction, and use the proceeds to settle outstanding Government taxes. Following the auction, Mr. Lee was announced as the successful bidder for the helicopter.

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