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From Boeing To Baling: Pilots Fly To The Rescue Of Heavy Agriculture Industry For Upcoming Harvest

New Zealand pilots waiting for international aviation to restart will be able to use their aviation transport skills to help meet the urgent need for heavy agriculture machinery operators throughout the country.

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) Medical and Welfare Director, Andy Pender said that the Association had been working for several months with the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Rural Contractors’ Association, other government departments and training providers to match pilot expertise with the immediate needs of the agricultural sector.

“By matching skills and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) licences pilots already hold, we’ve 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,” Andy Pender said.

Several hundred pilots, either on furlough or who have been made redundant in the wake of Covid-19, could help meet the urgent skills shortage in the agriculture sector, made more desperate by the inability of experienced offshore seasonal agricultural operators to return for the upcoming harvest.

Rural Contractors Association 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.

“Those 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, and also had previous agricultural large machinery operating and farming experience.”

Andy Pender, a former captain for Virgin Australia (New Zealand) said that the synergies NZALPA found through working across government and directly with operators had been extraordinary, and the training opportunities and willingness to work together was inspiring.

“It also demonstrates the way New Zealanders take a practical approach in time of crisis. As an industry and workforce, we, our families and crewmates endured an incredible and brutal shock, but we’re determined to apply our training to where it is needed, pick up additional skills and make the most of new opportunities,” Andy Pender said.

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