Support helps reshape family business

16 December 2020
Development West Coast
Upskill West Coast helps Glacier Country Helicopters get the training to diversify their business.

Glacier Country Helicopters began in 2014 in Franz Josef with husband and wife team Gus and Poppy Gordon.

With their unique local knowledge around New Zealand’s mountainous terrain and the West Coast glaciers and their skill set as commercial pilots, the company quickly thrived in a growing tourism market, offering an experience showcasing some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenery.

Glacier Country Helicopters has been actively trying to diversify its company for some time, but it comes at a large cost in aviation to gain the skills and knowledge required and with the dip in the current tourism sector diversification seemed almost out of reach.

Poppy Gordon talks about how Upskill has helped the business during this difficult time.

“With the help of the Upskill team from Development West Coast, through MBIE training funds, Glacier Country Helicopters has been able to get the training needed to diversify our predominately-international tourism helicopter company and build on other opportunities for work.

“Having the support and expertise from Tania and Hannah at DWC has been hugely beneficial to our company.

“Gus has recently completed his night cross-country rating. This has had an immediate effect on the company, as we have been able to gain frost protection contracts with South Island vineyards. I have also been granted upskilling support for recurrence training. I am also a qualified commercial pilot but I have spent the last three years raising my two young daughters Claudia and Bonnie who are two and three years old.

“I am extremely grateful for the support to get back to work and in the sky doing scenic flights. The support is allowing the other pilots to go and pursue other contracts. Our other senior pilot and training manager Jay Grift is going to carry out advanced sling training. This will enable both pilots to be deemed suitable for firefighting operations, a crucial skill set for the South Westland region if ever there is natural disaster to occur.

“We extend our appreciation and thanks to DWC and MBIE. The support is keeping our employees in a job and our dream alive. We were unfortunate not to have received any support through the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme (STAPP) and it was a hard pill to swallow. Having support from Upskill has really given us the tools to reshape our small little family owned company and venture into new revenue streams.”

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Upskill West Coast

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