REACH FOR THE SKIES
WORDS Kathy Catton PHOTOS Supplied
There are not many businesses out there that have a triple bottom line. One that equally values people, profit, and communities. It’s even more unusual when I tell you it’s a business that deals with engines, blades, and motors. GCH Aviation is truly a family business, and it shows from the moment you arrive at its newly built premises on Grays Road, next to Christchurch International Airport.
Founded in 1983 by John Currie as a scenic flight operator on New Brighton Beach, the business has grown year on year. It now offers tourism flights and air rescue operations in Christchurch and various locations on the South and North Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu.
The building’s reception area leads to a glass-fronted breathtaking vista of the airport’s runways with the expanse of the Canterbury Plains as a backdrop. On arrival I’m greeted by Caroline, the group marketing manager, who shows me the recently opened purpose-built private jet centre, providing exclusive customs and immigration facilities for jet owners wanting a stress-free transition from aircraft touchdown to their ultimate destination.
“It’s the only purpose-built jet centre in the South Island,” Caroline says, “We have customers who want a discreet arrival and a secure area for their corporate jets. We partner with some of the most exclusive luxury lodges and want to be sure these visitors have the best possible experience while in New Zealand.” The next stage is a corporate charter jet service due next year.
Founder John Currie still comes into the office most days, and with sons Andrew (CEO) and Daniel (CFO) very much in the driver’s seat of the business, the company’s sense of family is always there; just as families expand and branch out, so has this business.
Caroline says that safety is the number one priority. “We hold the only helicopter diamond safety rating in New Zealand. If a pilot doesn’t deem it safe to fly, then they are in command. Our helicopter rescue crews are on-call 24/7, and the new base provides great rest areas. This ensures the crews are ready to go within ten minutes of a call out. The best thing for our tourism business is that our pilots are also rescue pilots, which is an amazing asset for a helicopter business to have.”
You quickly get the feeling that these people want to be great corporate citizens and are keen to reach out to others. The new Christchurch base in Grays Road is fully equipped for handling seriously ill patients with the NZ Flying Doctors Service having a fully equipped medical triage area and undercover ambulance bays.
In 2011 following the Christchurch earthquakes, GCH was straight on the scene. When the seven tropical cyclones struck Fiji and Vanuatu in 2016, GCH was there to help. In 2017 during the Port Hills fires, GCH was one of the first in the air supporting the fire retainment process. And of course, they have partnered with Westpac for the last 25 years to provide medical emergency response to incidents throughout Canterbury. The company has maintained a strong presence in the scenic flight market and offers a range of packages from ‘bucket list’ gems to corporate helicopter winery excursions.
GCH recently branched out into the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) business providing drones for agricultural, real estate and thermal imaging.
“We’ve created products that are unique and allow customers to explore their own beautiful backyard. The great thing about helicopters is that they can go anywhere,” Caroline grins.
This is a business that is really taking off.