A New Zealand helicopter pilot, who is best known for his selfless work in the aftermath of last April’s earthquake in Nepal has been honoured with this year’s Appareo Pilot of the year Award. The Kiwi Pilot was working for Simrik Airlines when the 7.8 magnitude rattled Nepal almost a year back. A highly recognised and admired high-altitude pilot who is often called upon for difficult mountain rescues, Laing flew sorties to airlift many trapped climbers and their Sherpa guides out from camps one and two on Mt Everest after the huge avalanche that devastated the summit’s south base camp.
Laing has also been honored with the Kumar Khadga Bikram Adventurous Award from the Nepal Mountaineering Association and the Federation Aéronautique Internationale Diploma for Outstanding Airmanship. Currently, Laing is working with the Himalayan Trust setup by Sir Edmund Hillary to raise $50,000 to rebuild sherpa villages and to stage mountain rescue equipment at Everest above the ice falls.
“I’d just got back to my hotel and was getting ready to come into work,” Laing recalled about 25 April 2015. “I was on the sixth floor when the quake hit. The building didn’t fall down but it was extensively damaged. I was very lucky to get out alive.”
Then onwards, he headed to Kathmandu Airport and flew up in the first helicopters dispatched to assess the scenario. “We went up to the Langtang area. There were massive avalanches everywhere. It was total devastation. There were whole villages just gone,” he said. Next, he was sent to Mt. Everest’s Camps 1 and 2, where a collapsed icefall had trapped some 140 climbers.