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Wires kill pilots

Wires kill pilots

The rural economy is vitally important to New Zealand’s economic prosperity but the safety of the aviation industry, which plays an important role in ensuring regional prosperity, is not assured,’ said John Nicholson, Chief Executive of industry body Aviation NZ.

Between 1979 and 2015, helicopter pilots alone had 116 wire strikes resulting in 28 deaths. While people on the ground can generally see wires, they can often be invisible to pilots of low flying aircraft.

Electricity and phone lines are generally well marked with the towers and poles they run between quite visible - be you on the ground or in the air.
‘The major concern is wires erected by farmers,’ said Alan Beck, Chairman of the NZ Agricultural Aviation Association.

They present the greatest risk to agricultural aviation because they can run across gullies, and can be attached to obscure poles or even trees. To make it worse , some manufacturers even produce green covered wire.

To address this, the NZ Agricultural Aviation Association, three years ago, introduced ‘Down to the Wire’. ‘This safety education programme has been developed by the industry for the industry’ said Beck .

‘Down to the Wire’ encourages landowners and farmers to remove wires because they pose a danger to agriculture pilots.

The programme encourages best practice - all wires erected by farmers should be tied to an existing fence so that they do not extend above the fence. Disused wires should be removed completely.

Shannon Carr from Hill Country Farms in Wanganui is the face of ‘Down to the Wire’. She became a strong advocate for the programme when her father, Peter Robb, lost his life in a wire strike accident in the Whanganui area 20 months ago.

That same accident hit Peter Robb’s friend and fellow pilot Dean Lithgow hard. He has personally funded a ‘Let’s Get ‘Em Down’ campaign, saturating rural media and rural stores and events with educational material on the dangers of wires to pilots. Rugby’s Richie McCaw and motor racing’s Greg Murphy have been backing his advertising campaign.

So far, 30 ‘Down to the Wire’ ambassadors have been appointed to promote the ‘Down to the wire’ campaign. They have awarded close to 100 certificates of appreciation to landowners who have removed wires in Northland, Bay of Plenty, East Coast, Hawkes Bay, Whanganui, South Canterbury, Southland, and the West Coast.

Aviation NZ welcomes the new Worksafe initiative to encourage farmers to remove wires and the fact sheet released last month. The Civil Aviation Authority also now has a section on its website devoted to Wire Strike Avoidance which includes clear guidance on obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

‘The Worksafe and CAA actions are steps in the right direction,’ said Beck. ‘What’s missing is the guidance, where wires are to remain, to tie them to existing fence lines and for them not to exceed the height of those fence lines’.

‘This is an area of unfinished business for us’ concluded Beck.

Key facts about Aviation New Zealand
Aviation New Zealand exists to lead, inspire and grow the New Zealand aviation industry.

It was established in 1950 to encourage the safe growth of the aviation industry in New Zealand. In more recent years, it has also become involved in helping the international development of its members.

• Aviation New Zealand has over 300 members and over 1300 on its database
• Members include agricultural companies, air operators (fixed wing and rotary), aircraft designers and manufacturers, the UAV industry, airports, aviation trainers, emergency and medical services companies, helicopter companies, and parts manufacturers.
Key facts about the NZ Agricultural Aviation Association (NZAAA)
It was established in 1949 as the Aerial Work Operators Association and became a division of the Aviation Industry Association (the forerunner to Aviation NZ), when it was created the following year. The NZAAA aims to provide an environment where its members can prosper in safety.

Agricultural aviation means the use of aircraft in the application of agrichemicals and fertilisers in agriculture, including forestry and horticulture, and includes pest eradication operations carried out in native forests. Agricultural aircraft are also used in fire fighting operations and in urban pest management operations such as the Painted Apple Moth eradication programme.

Key facts about aviation in New Zealand
An ‘early adopter’ in aviation terms – first international customer for Boeing; first pilot training school 1916; first airmail 1919; and quick appreciation of the suitability of aviation for agriculture, tourism and forestry.

4639 aircraft in New Zealand, one per thousand people, give New Zealand one of the highest aircraft per capita ratios in the world.

Decades of policy innovation to support competition, safety and growth; 30m km² of safely managed airspace; and exports to over 100 countries on all continents.

Aircraft fit-outs, new aircraft (including UAVs), GPS track and tracing systems, high precision processes (for example bait and fire fighting), composites, titanium powders, and aviation industry business and operational systems are just some of the exciting technologies and practices developing in New Zealand which set the scene for growth in the next 100 years.


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