Southland Times


Skilled Queenstown aerial filming helicopter pilot Alfie Speight is arguably the country’s best. Legendary not only in the south, Speight regularly has Hollywood greats in his helicopter but you won’t catch him boasting, as Sue Fea discovers.

Trying to draw legendary Queenstown helicopter pilot Alfie Speight to boast about his 34-year career is like pulling teeth. Even getting him just to talk about it is hard enough.

That’s probably the very reason Southland-born Speight is arguably New Zealand’s most sought-after helicopter pilot for film and movie work, alongside the North Island’s Tony Monk.

He’s a man of few words and much skill – just the kind of guy Hollywood film-makers love – the less said the better in a world where all is under wraps until the end product hits the big screen.

While the big names of the movie world are out there working the red carpet, this unassuming 54-year-old Te Anau farm boy has been backstage keeping mum, just the way he likes it.

It’s this extreme humility and loyalty that has landed Speight the top flying job on film-maker Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. He regularly has Hollywood greats upfront in his Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters’ AS350 B2 Squirrel machine giving him instructions, his skills now sought-after internationally for aerial film work around New Zealand.

Speight’s list of movie credits reads like a Hollywood A-Lister. He’s clocked up some big names and flown a leading Hollywood camera operator into some of New Zealand’s most stunning wilderness landscapes during filming for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Pry a little – actually a lot – and you’ll discover that the leading camera operator was Dave Nowell, renowned worldwide as a veteran of 40 years expert aerial filming.

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Unbelievable Experience:

"Literally one of the best things I have ever done in my life. It was my first time in a helicopter and I loved every moment of it. I could not get over what I was looking at, it felt like a dream. The pilot had fantastic knowledge of the whole area which made the whole experience that much better." (Lauren N)