Aerial topdressing scheme flies away with top award

SUE O'DOWD
Last updated 05:00 15/08/2014
Alan Beck
SUE O'DOWD/Fairfax NZ
FLYING HIGH The New Zealand Agricultural Aviation Association, chaired by Eltham helilcopter pilot Alan Beck, has won the Richard Pearse Trophy for Innovative Excellence in the New Zealand Aviation Industry for its Aircare environmental safety programme.

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A safety programme developed by the agricultural aviation industry to protect the environment has won a major award.

The New Zealand Agricultural Aviation Association (NZAAA) Aircare programme received the Richard Pearse Trophy for Innovative Excellence in the New Zealand Aviation Industry, named in honour of the New Zealand pioneer aviator and inventor, at last month's Aviation New Zealand conference.

Aircare was an integrated environmental safety and flight safety programme that stopped contamination of waterways by fertilisers and sprays, NZAAA chairman Alan Beck, of Eltham, said.

More than half the industry is accredited to Aircare, which NZAAA developed three years ago. It provides a code of practice for noise abatement, firefighting and the aerial application of agrichemicals, fertiliser and vertebrate toxic agents like 1080. Landcorp uses only Aircare- accredited operators.

Beck said the industry's adoption of Aircare showed its commitment to protecting the environment and to social responsibility.

Independent audits of companies accredited to Aircare scrutinised GPS records and fertiliser weigh dockets.

"They can see where we flew, how heavy the load was, where we put it on and where we shut off, such as when we're flying over rivers."

The award was a huge accolade for Aircare accredited operators.

"Leading companies have seen the only way forward is to be ahead of the regulator and to ensure the industry keeps up with demands for a clean, green image," he said.

It was unexpected and was a tribute to the work of NZAAA executive officer John Sinclair, who put in a tremendous amount of work to develop the programme.

Previous winners include global aircraft tracking systems supplier Spider Tracks, Air New Zealand's aircraft interior design company Altitude Aerospace Interiors, and LanzaTech, for its development of a process that converts gases containing carbon monoxide into fuel and chemical products.

Taranaki operators Beck Helicopters, Super Air, Aerowork and Precision Helicopters have Aircare accreditation.

Taranaki Regional Council director of environment quality Gary Bedford said agricultural pilots in Taranaki had not generated any major issues in the past.

"It's excellent to see industry taking responsibility for itself. I'm glad to see the programme is being maintained and going strong."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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