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The success story of

Colin Mead


First Officer on the Boeing 767ERF for Tasman Cargo Airlines (DHL)


Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), Multi-Engine Instrument
Rating (MEIR), C-Category Instructor Rating

I first started my aeroclub journey with Waikato Aero Club as a junior member at age 14. I was employed part-time to wash their aircraft for the sum of $1 per hour. In those days, a Cessna 150/152 was $16 per hour solo. The wages went straight to flight training. By 15 years old, I was cleared to taxi the fleet around to the wash bay. The Cherokee Six ZK-EBG and Piper Arrow ZK-EBR soon became the cleanest aircraft in the fleet! Roll on my 16th birthday, and dad picked me up from school; we drove out to the airfield. Into Cessna 150 ZK-DOB with legendary instructor Ken Fenwick, I jumped. A check circuit and then out he got and said, “ok, go do 3 circuits by yourself.” By the time I got back, everybody was in the ‘snug’ bar celebrating. I tied the aeroplane down and had a lemonade. The next day it was back to School Cert.

Those were great days. My mate Bryan (he would become a lame and Cathay Pacific Boeing 747 Captain) and I would bike out to the airport every weekend, rain or snow (ok, it never snowed in Hamilton) without fail to wash planes and partake in aeroclub life. We soon became part of the Hamilton airport establishment and built our own clubhouse on top of the old aeroclub hangar. It was a foundation for aeroclubs, their social aspects, trips, and learning. I cannot emphasise enough how much you learn from others and observing in a like-minded environment such as an aeroclub.

At 17 1/2, I joined the RNZAF as an airman aircrew (I had been in the ATC and was pretty passionate about the military). I flew as an airman aircrew, from the UK to Antarctica, but my private flying took a bit of a back seat while I was a young twenty-something enjoying the world. I did, however, do some flying with Canterbury Aero Club and Whenuapai Aviation Sports Club, getting into parachuting for a bit. Roll on 1993, I had joined Air New Zealand international cabin crew but decided it was time to get my ass into gear and finally become a commercial pilot.

I joined NSAC (AIPA’s parent) for the first time and have never looked back. In 1994, I completed my Multi-engine Instrument Rating and Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL). In 1995, I completed my C-Category Instructor’s Rating and Multi-instructor rating and also became Club Captain and a part-time instructor for the club.

While I was in the US on trips with Air NZ, I flew out of Torrance regularly, building multi-time in a Seneca 1. I would fly the crew on a cost-share basis around the Western US: Palm Springs, Santa Catalina, Arizona, and down into Mexico were favourites. I soon became NSAC’s most experienced multi-instructor.


Standouts for me were strip flying with ‘Albo’ and, of course, the Great Northern Air Race. In 1995, my first stead was a Cessna 210, followed by quite a few years flying a Cessna 310Q ZK-OIL. I learnt a lot about performance and engine handling with the big donks. Invaluable! Aeroclubs teach you so much more than just the basics. A couple of years later, I left Air NZ to take up my first full-time turbo prop job on the EMB 110 Banderante. I still instructed part-time, and the aeroclub was still an important part of my life.

At 1500 hrs and only 4 months into my first full-time airline job, I passed my ATPL flight test and was given my first command. The secret, if you want to be a commercial pilot, is to get those ATPL exams out of the way early and be prepared. My mantra has always been that a command is a privilege, not a right. In 1999, I got my first jet job on a BAe146 out of Luton, UK with Debonair. Unfortunately, during the course, they went into administration and folded. I managed one family trip to Rome. “Don’t give up” – my second mantra. It was back to NZ and flying the ‘Bandit’ for Air National out of Auckland and Wellington. Toward the end of 1999, I did a B767 type rating with Air New Zealand, including flying the real aeroplane around the circuit in Christchurch at 2 a.m.

In June 2000, I accepted a one-year contract flying with Royal Brunei Airlines. Twenty years later, I was still there as a Senior Captain. It was a brilliant career and a quick command. I was a wide-body Captain within 5 years of being a full-time commercial pilot: 767/757 command, 777 command, 787 command, really too many highlights to mention. And then along came COVID…

Our expatriate dreams were shattered when we were all made redundant. After just over 20 years, I returned to NZ jobless. Fortunately, you can’t keep a good man down. I got some Pt 135 work on a Cessna 172, flying scheduled trips and flight-seeing around the Coromandel, and then flying a Cessna Citation Ultra executive jet up and down the country. It was a lot of fun, a little pocket rocket into and out of Queenstown and some challenging airfields like Wanaka and Masterton.

Back into a big jet. My time eventually came, and this year I started back on the B767. It’s been updated a lot since I flew them 13 years ago and now has sexy new winglets.

It’s been a hell of a career, it really has, and it all started by learning and training with NSAC (AIPA’s parent). As a pilot, you never stop learning, you never stop asking questions. For me, it has been a career, a passion, a lifestyle. I have never regretted a minute. A career path will always have ups and downs and challenges. Never lose the drive and don’t give up. Flying can be the most challenging and rewarding thing you ever do.

Colin Mead's Advice for future students:

Colin Mead's Advice for future students:

“A career path will always have ups and downs and challenges – never lose the drive and don’t give up. Flying can be the most challenging and rewarding thing you ever do.”

From Ground to Sky – Elevate Your Ambition at AIPA