We’re proud to have provided quality helicopter services in the Fiordland region for more than 40 years. As a family owned and operated business, every team member here at Southern Lakes Helicopters is genuinely passionate about what we do.
Our founder, Sir Richard Hayes, developed his love for aviation in the ‘70s when he first learned to fly planes in Dunedin. From there on, he quickly expanded his skills to flying helicopters and started a job in the deer recovery business across the South Island of Aotearoa. He worked closely with Sir Tim Wallace and the Alpine Group and was positioned in Te Anau, a spot close to his heart thanks to many family vacations when he was younger.
Sir Richard Hayes decided to settle down and start his own family after 10 years of being a part of the Alpine Group. This allowed him to take the leap and start his own business – Southern Lakes Helicopters – in 1982. He quickly became known as a pioneer in the Fiordland Aviation Industry and used his highly developed skills to fly many search and rescue missions. Sir Richard Hayes has been nationally recognised and was awarded the MNZM (Member of New Zealand Order of Merit) for his services to Search and Rescue. In 2014, he was also promoted to Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to the community.
The love for aviation was passed to the next generation and Sir Richard’s son, Michael Hayes, has followed in his father’s footsteps. While studying at the University of Canterbury, Michael realised how much he loved the outdoors and discovered his own passion for helicopters. His work took him across the world for a number of years, flying Scientific missions in Antarctica and working for the MIA program in the exotic highlands of Papua New Guinea. In 2010, Michael returned home to Te Anau to work alongside his father at Southern Lakes Helicopters and continue the business’ legacy. As the new CEO of Southern Lakes Helicopters, Michael strives to keep the genuine passion for helicopter flight alive within every employee and guest alike.
Both the love for aviation and for Aotearoa bonds the father and son team with the other highly skilled pilots that fly under Southern Lakes Helicopters. Sharing the beauty of the many remote and untouched locations across both Fiordland and Aoraki/Mt Cook with guests and putting in the mahi (work) to preserve the essence of Southern Lakes Helicopters and the core of its future.
Sir Richard is a well known and respected pilot with 40 years of experience flying in the mountainous terrain of Fiordland, and has in excess of 32,000 helicopter flying hours. He operates with skill and professionalism and is heavily involved in Search and Rescue operations, often with the use of Night Vision Equipment. His skill and experience has been recognised nationally by being awarded the MNZM (Member of New Zealand Order of Merit) for his services to Search and Rescue. In 2014 Richard was promoted to Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to search and rescue and the community. Sir Richard and Lady Carol Hayes also own and operate Heliworks Mt Cook, based at Aoraki/ Mt Cook airport.
Michael now a second generation pilot has began his flying career in 2010 with Southern Lakes Helicopters and gained valuable experience in scenic, commercial and rescue operations over 7 years here in the beautiful mountains of Fiordland and the remote continent of Antarctica.
In 2017 Michael moved overseas for three years, flying BK117 and B212 helicopters on oil & gas, mining and the United States MIA programme in the exotic highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Now back in his home town Te Anau, Michael has returned to Southern Lakes Helicopters to share his passion for flying and Fiordland with our guests.
Snow joined the team in 2015 after many years flying in Milford Sound. Snow has over 20 years flying experience in the Fiordland area, and also flew commercially in Canada for a year which included fire fighting. In 2019 Snow was promoted to Chief Pilot.
Andrew grew up in Te Anau and has been flying around Fiordland in between overseas tours for 10+ years. Has gained valuable experience in a broad range of operations both here and overseas. He enjoys spending time with his family, boating and hunting.
A third-generation pilot, Matt grew up in Te Anau and loves the diversity and outdoor experiences right on Fiordland's doorstep. Matt loves diving & hunting, and gained his flying experience mostly through venison recovery. Matt joined the Southern Lakes Helicopters team in 2018.
Paul started flying 10 years ago after a career as an aircraft maintenance engineer. Since then, he has flown in Botswana, Fiji, and the last 6 years in Fiordland clocking up around 2700 hours. Paul enjoys the variety of the flying here and the challenge of Fiordland's rugged landscape. When he isn’t working Paul will be spending time with his young family or out taking his rifle for a walk.
Mike is a true-blue Kiwi bloke who started his Piloting career 12 years ago amounting to well over 2,500 flight hours. Mike started with SLH in 2022 taking on the role of Lead Pilot for the Mt Cook base. He quickly became a vital member of the team and brings with him a huge amount of skill and knowledge with mountain terrain flying and Search and Rescue in the Southern Alps. When not flying Mike can often be found enjoying his other passions of hunting, fishing and hiking with his family.
Ben Young has gained valuable flying experience across diverse terrains, including Australia and the untamed wilderness of Canada. Whether navigating the Southern Lakes region from above or tracking game on the ground, Ben’s love for the outdoors permeated every aspect of his life, bringing a unique perspective and unmatched enthusiasm to every Southern Lakes helicopter adventure.
Dom originally from the UK came to NZ in 2003 and began a career with the NZ Police in 2006. He diligently served 12 years before leaving to chase his dream of becoming a Pilot. In 2019 he achieved his goal of obtaining his CPL and is now heading up the Mt Cook base as our new Flight Operations Manager. His passion for flying and the aviation industry is only rivalled by the love of his family and our beautiful backyard.
After 18 years in the outdoor industry, Richie became our Safety Manager and Crewman at Southern Lakes Helicopters. His role with us has a number of responsibilities similar to his former career of mountain guiding, field safety and search and rescue in New Zealand, Antarctica and the Himalaya.
Richie still enjoys skiing, climbing, cycling and canoeing in the mountains and rivers of New Zealand.
Living on a lifestyle block in Te Anau with her husband, two children and 'Minnie' the Jack Russell, Erin is a true-blue Southlander. She joined the SLH team in 2006 and loves the mix of work SLH undertakes, including Medivac/SAR - every day is different!
Ngaire has been a member the SLH team for 11 years, and comes from a farming background near Otautau. Ngaire loves all that Te Anau and Fiordland have to offer, especially in the summer months. She enjoys getting out on the lake in the boat fishing & water skiing.
Marleen is originally from The Netherlands. She arrived in New Zealand in 2007 - and loved it so much that she stayed! Marleen joined the Southern Lakes Helicopters team in 2015 and is passionate about sharing the very best of our region through our incredible flight options. When not in the office, she is busy keeping things running smoothly at home, raising two young boys.
Southland born and bred, Bex joined the Southern Lakes Helicopters team in October 2018. Bex loves all of the outdoor activities that Fiordland has to offer - chat to her about Fiordland's Great Walks, or our new Lake2Lake cycle trail.
Brittany joined the team at Southern Lakes Helicopters in 2022 after completing an Agribusiness and Marketing degree at Lincoln University. Brittany fell in love with living in Fiordland and enjoys putting her skills to use in the area she loves. She is excited to be a part of such a dynamic team of people and hopes to make a positive impact in her role.
Meet Taysia Knudsen, an integral part of the Southern Lakes Helicopters team in the stunning Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Taysia is an avid glider enthusiast, gracefully navigating the skies. Outside of work, she enjoys the simple pleasures of running, biking, and savoring her favorite treat—Kalles Kavier with Marmite on toast. Taysia is known for her impressive hide-and-seek skills, effortlessly disappearing into small, dark corners during office games. Bringing creativity to the workplace, she uses her craft scissors to add a vibrant touch to office paperwork.
Passengers: up to 7-9
Fuel: 300L per hour
Heli weight all up: 3350kgs
Cruise speed; 235km/hr
Passengers: 5-6 passengers
Heli weight all up: 2100kgs
Cruise speed: 120 knots / 220km/hr
Engine: Arriel 1B
Passengers: 5-6 passengers
Fuel: 180L per hour
Cruise speed: 235km/hr
Engine: Arriel 1D 1
Passengers: 5-6 passengers
Fuel: 200L per hour
Cruise speed: 235km/hr
Engine: Arriel 2B 1
Passengers: 4 passengers
Cruise speed: 210km/hr
Engine:1 Turbomeca Arrius 2F
Stunningly Beautiful. Amazing trip with Heff as our pilot. Scenic views breathtaking & landings amazing. Views can’t be seen anywhere else in the world.
WORTH EVERY PENNY! We did the Doubtful Sound flight and it was the most amazing experience I have ever done! Craig was an amazing pilot who was super chill and easy to chat with and made it just that little bit better.
Our photos do not do justice to the feeling of standing what felt like the top of the world. The feeling of total amazement was worth every dollar it cost to do and I’d do it again when we can. This is an absolute must do and I’d highly recommend Southern Lakes Helicopters.
Trip of a lifetime!! Pristine wilderness, fab pilot and staff: an experience I will NEVER forget!!! A MUST DO for anyone visiting Fiordland. No matter what your budget, figure out a way to make it happen. A 360 degree sensory experience that will keep you buzzing for days. Do it.