Five days after receiving his qualification to fly the C-130 Hercules aircraft in late September, Flying Officer Tristan Nysse was assigned to help deliver 12 tonnes of supplies to Vanuatu as part of his first mission overseas.
18 October 2017
When Tristan Nysse signed up to become a pilot in the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) in January 2013, he did so with hopes of contributing to the public good.
Five days after receiving his qualification to fly the C-130 Hercules aircraft in late September, Flying Officer Nysse had a dream start when he was assigned to help deliver 12 tonnes of supplies to Vanuatu as part of his first mission overseas.
“Dropping off the supplies in Vanuatu for the thousands who were displaced by the volcano was a highlight,” he said. “I’ve always believed there were opportunities to do something good for society as an Air Force pilot.”
Flying Officer Nysse, 24, of Wellington, was studying mechanical engineering at the University of Canterbury when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake devastated Christchurch in February 2011. He joined the university’s Student Volunteer Army to help Christchurch residents with tasks such as cleaning up soil liquefaction on the streets.
“Seeing the New Zealand Defence Force’s response to the earthquake and participating in the Student Volunteer Army both reinforced the idea in my mind that I wanted to be someone who helps out our communities in times of need,” he said.
After the aid stop in Luganville, Vanuatu’s second-largest city, the Hercules flew to Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste to pick up military personnel who will take part in Southern Katipo 2017, the New Zealand Defence Force’s largest military exercise, before flying to Christchurch for the Antarctic Open Day.
“We covered a lot of different things for that task, from delivering humanitarian aid to transporting troops and organising a VIP tour of the aircraft,” Flying Officer Nysse said.
As co-pilot for the five-day mission, he shared flying duties with the aircraft captain and looked after most of the radio communication en route to their destinations.
“Everything in-flight worked out well,” he said. “The challenges came on the ground when I was trying to organise fuel, food, transport and accommodation in a foreign country. It was great to be with an experienced crew and to meet New Zealanders overseas, who helped by sharing their local knowledge and connections.”
Flying Officer Nysse considered pursuing a career in aviation when he was 12. He started flying at 15 and flew a Piper Tomahawk solo just after he turned 16.
There was plenty of encouragement from a cousin who had trained to be a civilian pilot and from a family friend who was formerly a Skyhawk pilot.
While still in high school, Flying Officer Nysse and his family met the Red Checkers, the RNZAF’s aerobatic team, while visiting a family friend who was commander of Base Woodbourne at that time.
“I was really impressed with their display and got to try on all their flying gear and look through an Air Trainer.”
Flying Officer Nysse applied to join the RNZAF during his final year at Onslow College in 2010, but failed to get a spot on the Wings course for student pilots.
“I was good at maths and physics in high school and I didn’t really want to be an engineer, so I applied again in 2012,” he said.
“I like the Hercules because you work as part of a big team and do a variety of flying, from transport to tactical low-level missions.”