Kiwi Helicopter Pilot Honored

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A New Zealand helicopter pilot who single-handedly put out a wildfire while flying with night-vision goggles in winds gusting to 40 knots has been awarded the Federation Aeronautique International (FAI) Outstanding Airman Award. According to the Southland Times, well-known pilot Richard "Hannibal" Hayes received the honor last week from FAI Chairman Pierre Portman for some pretty tricky flying near Queenstown, N.Z., in November of 2005. More than 100 residents were evacuated as a fire advanced toward their homes and Hayes was the only pilot available with a night-vision rating. Hayes worked alone through the night and managed to contain the fire. The high winds and heat combined to make the flying even more dangerous but Hayes dumped load after load of water ahead of the flames to keep them contained. The previous FAI award went collectively to the helicopter pilots who rescued victims of Hurricane Katrina in September of 2005. Hayes apparently ducks publicity and did not make himself available for comment.