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New Zealand tourism occupations. A floatplane pilot.

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

Tourism in New Zealand is very diverse and bright. Today we are starting the series of articles about rare occupations in New Zealand tourism industry. This project will help you to look at travelling from another angle – from services providers’ point of view. And our first interlocutor is Steven Newland, 36 years old General Manager and Chief Floatplane Pilot at Volcanic Air Rotorua.

How did you become a pilot?

I always wanted to be a pilot, but thought you needed to be an A+ student. Originally I was going to do an apprenticeship as an aircraft engineer but once I realised I could learn to fly I started straight away.

What education do you have? What institution/courses and when did you graduate?

Started flying 2001, 2002 started flight training at Bay Flight International in Tauranga.

What characteristics must a candidate have to become a pilot?

Good sense of humor. Situational awareness of what's happening around your surrounds. Able to get along with your follow pilots and passengers. Ability to learn, listen and follow instructions.

Why do you fly a float plane not a helicopter or Air New Zealand aircraft?

It has always been a dream for myself and many pilots to fly floatplanes, only a select few get the chance. I believe it is a completely different experience to fly than a helicopter. You have a sense of remoteness flying into secluded beaches, along with the romance of taking-off and landing on the water.

I also believe it is beneficial to have a balanced lifestyle outside of work. Flying for the airline is very demanding with many overnight layovers and time away from friends and family. With flying floatplanes you are home most nights (you can't land a floatplane in the dark as you can't see the water!)

Were you born in Rotorua?

I was born in Thames and moved to Rotorua for work. Originally worked for Volcanic Air from 2007-2009 as junior pilot.

I returned back to Volcanic Air in October 2018 as General Manager and Chief Floatplane Pilot, as myself and my partner have just had our first child, and chose Rotorua for the lifestyle and affordable living.

What are advantages of Volcanic Air? What is its most unique product?

By floatplane the more unique product is flying into Orakei Korako. The flight is beautiful and the landing is exhilarating for the passengers are you zigzag through the river to land.

Tell us about your first flight with passengers. How it was? What did you feel?

My first passenger was my father. Once I received my licence I flew to Thames and took him for a ride. It was very special to me.

How many flights per day do you make in average?

It varies a lot. A typical day 3-4. Most done in a day was 15.

Is there a shortage of professionals like you?

Yes. It is becoming increasing hard to find a professional floatplane pilot. New pilots with talent are now going directly to the airlines as they have dramatically dropped their hour requirements.

What do you love and hate most at your daily job?

Love: The staff and passengers. To be able to soar around the stunning area.

Hate: Falling into the lake in winter.

Could you share with us any funny story from your experience?

Too many to write down =) Had a passenger try tie his seatbelt around his neck the other day... laughed for hours.

Volcanic Air Rotorua was founded in 1991 and since that time has been providing a high quality services for people who want to explore the region of Big Rotorua by a floatplane or a helicopter. On our web-site you can purchase the next tours of this provider:

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