Euan Stratford reflects on his career as a helicopter pilot. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Beers, Burgers and Banter


Every few weeks we sit down with someone with a story to tell at Burger Culture. We call it ‘Burgers, Beers and Banter’. This week we speak to Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter pilot Euan Stratford who has recently returned home to Nelson after working overseas.

“I’ve been flying for more than 20 years now but I still remember my first flight. I did my aeroplane licence when I was at school, I could afford half an hour flying time a week with my after-school job (it was a bit cheaper back then). But then mum bought us a joyride down in a helicopter at Tahuna Beach at Christmas time one year and that was it. I thought ‘this is cool’ so that was that.

Next it was like ‘right, need to pay for it,’, so I got a job on the fishing boats for a while. I thought if I save all the money up for it and I get to my magic number and I’ve still got that money in the bank and haven’t drunk it or spent it on fast cars and stuff, then I must really want to do it. I saw a lot of other blokes with heaps of nice cars and stuff, but it was a means to an end.

My wife was pregnant with our first boy 10 years ago, that’s when I started working overseas, mainly in Indonesia and New Guinea. The work is month on month off which is OK but was hard on the family. You fly home in your time off so you can imagine three and a half weeks goes pretty bloody fast.

A lot of the work was for mining companies, looking for gold or oil and stuff. We would be living in bush camps in the jungle some of them were pretty terrible. My last trip in Indonesia was pretty bad, the food was awful, I pretty much lived off rice and cabbage for a month. I lost so much weight.

There’s no internet or air conditioning, and the bugs.

It was quite hard, our nine and seven-year-old pretty much grew up with me doing the month on month off thing. Coming home is great, but you can imagine, before you know it, you’re back at the airport and it’s time to go.

I had some shoulder surgery at the end of last year and was gearing up to go and work away again but then the job came up here with the rescue helicopter and I couldn’t believe it. I’m stoked, it’s so good. I still love it and catch myself sometimes taking it for granted but this job is pretty cool. It’s cool to be able to do what you love doing but also be helpful.”

Have you or someone you know got a good pub story to tell? Email [email protected]