Topdressing combines young pilot’s two passions: agriculture and aviation

Posted by on 16 July 2019 | Comments

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It’s a cool, crisp King Country morning as Kent Weir climbs into the cockpit of his topdressing plane.

Within minutes, a white truck fitted with a hydraulic loader arm, drops fertiliser through an opening in the aircraft’s roof.

It’s the first of many loads the 27-year-old will spread over this rugged, hill country farm before the sun sets.

Kent glances at the panel of dials and switches in front of him, as he prepares to take off on a flat strip of grass.

The plane, which can carry up to two tonnes of fertiliser, climbs into the air, soaring over pockets of mist in the valley below.

“Mornings are definitely my favourite time of the day,” he said, as the winter sun pierces through a gap in the hills.

Kent is an agricultural pilot for Super Air, a job he’s had for five years. He got his start at the company as a loader driver.

“It’s a job I really enjoy. It’s a profession which has its risks, but I take a risk-based approach to every decision I make,” he said.

“Making sure both the loader driver and I get home safely at the end of the day is at the forefront of everything we do.”

The King Country Young Farmers member flies the area between Otorohanga and Whanganui.

“Most days I leave in the dark and get home in the dark. But the job is very weather dependent,” said Kent.

“The majority of our clients are sheep and beef farmers. We can put on up to 400 tonnes of fertiliser in a day.”

Super Air planes are fitted with modern GPS guidance systems, allowing them to receive 10 signals per second from up to 25 satellites.

The technology enables pilots to spread fertiliser to an accuracy of one metre.

It helps farmers comply with environmental regulations and obtain the best economic benefit from their fertiliser investment.

Kent has always had a love for the agri-food sector and flying.

He grew up in Hawera in South Taranaki, where his father worked as a stock agent for 30 years.

“I’ve always wanted to be a topdressing pilot,” he said.

“I’m really passionate about aviation and agriculture and it’s one of the few jobs that combines those two things,” he said.

Kent got his private pilot’s licence while he was at high school and later completed his commercial licence in Christchurch.

He joined NZ Young Farmers (NZYF) in 2013 as a way to meet people and make new friends.

It wasn’t long before he was giving back to the organisation, taking on major leadership roles.

In March, he stepped down as chair of NZYF’s Waikato/Bay of Plenty region, a position he’d held for 18 months.

He then served as the region’s National Committee (NatCom) delegate.

“NZ Young Farmers has fantastic opportunities for personal development that don’t exist elsewhere for young people,” he said.

Earlier this month, Kent was elected to the NZ Young Farmers Board.

“I’m pleased, humbled and honoured to be given this privilege. I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” he said.

“It’s pretty amazing that I have this opportunity to sit at a board table at 27 and start my governance journey at such a young age.”

Nine people were vying for two elected positions in the hotly-contested election.

“My main motivation for standing for the board was a desire to give back to an organisation I care a lot about,” he said.

“I have benefited greatly from the connections and friendships I have made over the years.”

In February, the results of a Farmstrong survey involving 985 farmers under 35 were presented to the AGMARDT NZ Young Farmers Conference.

They showed social activities run by NZYF clubs have a positive impact on the mental wellbeing of the organisation’s members.

“It was really heartening to see that survey come out and reinforce something that we anecdotally knew was true,” he said.

“It’s a tool that we can use to leverage membership growth and it’s an extremely strong selling point for our organisation.”

Kent has been elected to the NZ Young Farmers Board for a three-year term. His first board meeting is in August.