Our History

Simon Spencer-Bower QSM, first started training helicopter pilots in 1980 from a small private airfield, called Claxby near Christchurch, in Canterbury, under the name of Canterbury Helicopters.

In 1992 a branch of Canterbury Helicopters was set up at Wanaka in the Southern Lakes area of the South Island, trading as Wanaka Helicopters. Together the two became New Zealand’s busiest helicopter training school and have trained more helicopter pilots than any other New Zealand training establishment. The main base of Canterbury Helicopters was relocated to Wanaka Airfield in 2000.

In total, over 500 pilots have gained licenses under his direct supervision. His pilot training career has been built on his attention to detail, quality of training, his integrity and safety record. Simon has a global reputation in the Aviation Industry which is second to none. Combine this reputation with our location in Wanaka and you have the best possible environment to gain “world class” training that is recognised by prospective employers within the Aviation Industry.

Simon is a CAA General Aviation Flight Examiner and acts as a consultant to the CAA.

Please contact us for more information through our enquiry form.

Our Philosophy

Wanaka Helicopters philosophy is to not only teach a pilot above average skills but also to produce a pilot who has a good, mature and professional attitude, which will be beneficial to any future employer. Rather than pamper a student under a sheltered training environment, we expose them (especially commercial students) to as many ‘experiences’ as possible, so they become familiar with most aspects of helicopter operations.

We want them to leave us with an in-depth knowledge of real life operations and have developed sound decision-making processes. We limit the amount of students training at any one time because we are more interested in providing quality rather than producing numbers. Here you will receive our full attention and will not be treated as a ‘number’. Our fleet consists of the latest model, low-houred helicopters, which are kept and maintained in top condition and are always hangered.

We demand a high standard of cleanliness and tidiness and teach all students the absolute importance of a professional approach to their chosen career.

We train all our pilots to display a high degree of professionalism, so they seldom have to display their high degree of skill!


Our Vision

To be an ‘Internationally renowned centre of excellence providing exceptional pilot training’

Our Mission

  • To maintain our position as a leader in practising and promoting flight safety in New Zealand
  • To provide a safe, highly professional and reliable service to all our students that is memorable, educational and personal
  • To do our best to facilitate employment opportunities through delivering world class training in a world class flying environment
  • To operate in an environmentally friendly and good neighbourly manner at all times, respecting and being sensitive to the wishes and needs of others

Our Values

  • Diversity – celebrating different cultures, their heritage and language
  • Passion – about aviation, people and the bettering of self and our students
  • Integrity – respecting others and providing confidentiality. Truly engaging with people to understand their needs
  • Teamwork – supporting, challenging and celebrating success
  • Quality – delivering the best possible programmes to our students
  • Future focused – proactive, innovative and continually learning and developing
  • Experiential learning – learning where possible by reviewing experiences and making positive changes for the future
  • Excellence – striving for excellence through criticality of experiences, opinions and academia
  • Environmental sustainability – being aware of things we can do to reduce our impact on the planets’ environment and promoting these to others
  • Staff sustainability – managing ourselves to ensure we can maintain the quality of our programmes
  • Safety – maintaining the highest standards of safety, from how we look after our aircraft to how we operate them on a day-to-day basis

Please contact us for more information through our enquiry form.