Tuesday, 08 September 2020 06:55

High-flying ag contractors

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
New Zealand Airline Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) medical and welfare director, Andy Pender. New Zealand Airline Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) medical and welfare director, Andy Pender.

An airline pilot may soon be landing in a paddock near you, driving a harvester.

New Zealand pilots, made redundant following the abrupt border closures triggered by Covid-19, are eying driving jobs in the agriculture sector.

With rural contractors having little success in getting government approval to bring in at least 206 overseas drivers, these pilots could provide some relief.

New Zealand Airline Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) medical and welfare director, Andy Pender says it has been working with Ministry of Primary Industries and Rural Contractors of NZ for several months to match pilot expertise with the immediate needs of the agricultural sector.

Pender told Rural News that nearly 500 NZ pilots have either lost their jobs or are in furlough: most are redeploying themselves to other sectors.

He says driving large machinery in the agriculture sector would be a great fit for pilots, who are used to working long hours and operating large and expensive machines.

“We know how to work under pressure and we aren’t daunted by big machines….we have been operating machines that weigh 250 tonnes,” he says.

Some pilots are serious about making a career change, driving large agricultural machinery and are undergoing training before applying for a Level 1 and 2 licences, required to drive large ag machinery.

Pender, who used to fly for Virgin, is scheduled to undergo training this month.

He says the association is working with training providers.

The association has matched skills and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) licences pilots already hold.

Pender says they found almost 200 opportunities for pilots to put their skills to use with land-based machinery and do their bit for New Zealand’s essential agriculture economy.

RCNZ chief executive Roger Parton contacted his national membership alerting them to surveys NZALPA had taken of its members to identify transferable skills that, with some extra training, could result in pilots helping to fill some of the gaps many growers and exporters now face.

Parton says these pilot surveys indicated a significant number who, in addition to considerable flying expertise and qualifications, also held land transport licences class 2 or higher, with specific NZTA category endorsements.

Some have also had previous agricultural large machinery operating and farming experience.

Pender says the pilots are determined to apply their training to where it is needed, pick up additional skills and make the most of new opportunities.

More like this

Dairy shines in Covid world

Consumers are flocking back to dairy products as Covid shines the light on health and wellness, says Tom Bailey, the new senior vice president for Southern Pastures.

Covid to cast a shadow

Next month's Northland Field Days will be a “whole different ballgame” thanks to Covid-19, says organising committee president John Phillips.

National

MPI lost touch

MPI boss Ray Smith says with the advent of the climate change proposals and the new essential fresh water regulations,…

Farmer fined for bovis breach

Failure to follow directives not to move stock because of the Mycoplasma bovis threat and breaking NAIT rules has landed…

$8 on the cards?

An $8-plus milk price for Fonterra farmers this season could be on the cards.

Machinery & Products

Real handy in all situations

Listening to customers across all sectors of agriculture helps the Handypiece team design and engineer options to make its unit…

Film binding now available

The Kuhn VBP 3100 series variable chamber baler-wrapper combination can now be equipped with the patented Kuhn Twin-reel film binding…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Bad look

OPINION: Your canine crusader reckons something smells really iffy about the move by Beef+Lamb NZ directors to sack the independent…

Out of touch

OPINION: This old mutt has always thought the people who inhabit the nation’s parliament are a weird bunch with very…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter