Aerial topdressing

tiger-mothIn 1950, when I was eight, regular air travel had only just started and most ordinary people had never been in a plane (or even seen one flying overhead).  My first memory is of a Tiger Moth at my friend Bradley’s farm.  The picture on the right shows a Tiger Moth dropping fertiliser in one of the very first aerial topdressing trials.

Aerial topdressing was invented in New Zealand.  Before that, bags of fertiliser would have to be carried by tractor or horse and then spread by hand.  It was very hard work, of course, and not very efficient.  There’s a very interesting article about it all here, on the Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand.


claude-stephenson-max-xIn the 1960s, my older brother Max became a topdressing pilot and spent much of his life flying, in New Zealand, England, and Africa.  Here’s a photo of him (centre) in Martinborough, where we lived in the 1960s, in front of one of the Auster Agricola planes he flew at that time.  The Agricola was a British plane that had been designed specifically for the New Zealand topdressing market.

His boss, Claude Stephenson (on the left), had been a fighter pilot during the Second World War, serving with the RAF (the British air force).

You can see a shot of Max flying (in Africa) in this clip, which is from a 1970s(?) documentary:  Points to note are that the narrator is the famous actor Anthony Hopkins (“Silence of the Lambs” etc) and that Max and his close mate Paddy Mackay are mentioned shortly after the one minute mark.   (The reference to Max is quite amusing, so have a look!)

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