Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

16 September 2009

Aerial Top Dressing

I had a memorable day photographing these and other shots of aerial top dressing on to hill country in the Kaipara area north of Auckland. For both of these shots I was actually standing on a hill higher than the aircraft's altitude!

The technique of broadcasting fertilizers by aircraft was pioneered in New Zealand, its genesis being in the 1920s. But it took off (literally) after the second world war using adapted aircraft such as the DC3 Dakota and over the years has progressed to the point where aircraft like the Fletcher FU24 in these photographs are now specially designed and built.

It's a dangerous game with little margin for error when holding to hill contours, avoiding power lines, trees and pylons, and landing and take-off often use short, steep inadequate runways of varying surfaces with potholes, livestock and fences to be negotiated.

Tragically, the man who piloted the aircraft in these pictures, Peter Beatty, who had over 14000 hours of flying experience, died with his loader/passenger a few months later when his aircraft crashed into bush-clad hills near Whangarei.


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By Don Donovan