Out of Africa to Flying High in NZ: The Story Behind Team Heliview
Many Cromwellians have come to know Richard, Jolanda and Safi Foale as the community-minded team behind Heliview Flights who specialise in scenic helicopter flights, alpine snow landings and heli-bike adventures around the Cromwell Basin. However, the story behind their move to Cromwell is just as interesting as the view from their “office” soaring high over Central Otago.
Richard and Jolanda both grew up in Kenya. Richard was introduced to fixed wing flying from an early age thanks to his father, so a six-year stint flying helicopters for the British Army Air Corp seemed almost inevitable. As a ‘young colonial’ he enjoyed his officer training school days and another highlight was a one-year deployment to Canada. After completing his service, he was ready to return to Africa and look for a different challenge.
Richard didn’t pick an easy option as he ended up managing an airfield in Somalia for an American organisation that sub-contracted to the United Nations. This was during “Black Hawk Down” days and overseeing the main airfield in Mogadishu definitely had its challenges. He was in charge of making sure that all non-military personnel and resources arrived and departed on time Occasionally, this also meant stopping enemy forces from stealing UN aid supplies and just staying alive were more important than normal airfield objectives.
The call to take to the air again saw Richard sitting his fixed wing licence before he began flying UN personnel and VIPs in a Cessna Caravan around Somalia and East Africa. This endeavour was short-lived; however, as the United Nations pulled out of Somalia, so it was back to Kenya and helicopters.
Kenya not only re-ignited his joy of helicopters he also got back into rally car driving as he often undertook fly-in supply and support runs for motorsport rallies. It was on a trip to Timau where he was driving his own rally car that he met Jolanda, where she was busy doing three-day eventing. Richard insists that he and his mates went to see the equestrian prowess; Jolanda thinks it was more about watching ‘girls in jodhpurs.’
Born in Switzerland, Jolanda and her family moved to Kenya when she was four years old. She became an accomplished horsewoman at a young age and by the time Richard met her she could hold her own on the East African eventing circuit. She also proved her mental fortitude beyond the equestrian world by completing her BSc in International Tourism and Hospitality Management from Glion Institute of Higher Education in Switzerland.
The Foales moved to New Zealand in 2001. Richard’s sister had married a kiwi and Aotearoa seemed like the place to be. Richard had a short stint flying private charters and scenic flights out of Mechanics Bay in Auckland before they moved to New Plymouth and began flying for the rescue helicopter.
After flying around Taranaki’s mountainous maritime climate for a few years, Richard and Jolanda started Heliview Flights in New Plymouth in December 2003. More recently, operating in a more temperate climate seemed like a good idea. On average, Cromwell has the sunniest, most flyable days of anywhere in Central Otago so they moved down south in 2014. When asked what they like best about Cromwell, the answer was simple according to Jolanda, ‘It’s the people. We’ve always made great friends wherever we’ve been, but the Cromwell community really is welcoming and fun to be a part of.”
Next time you decide you want to get a different perspective of Cromwell (from the air that is) know that the team behind your aerial Central Otago adventure is both experienced when it comes to everything involving helicopters, and extremely proud to be based in Cromwell. For more information on Heliview Flights go to www.heliview.co.nz.