A broken back from a helicopter accident and the death of a fellow pilot motivated Alan Beck to launch a helicopter safety campaign, but it is the desire to make the skies safer for future generations that keeps him going.
Since Alan's accident in 1992 he has received several awards for his services to aviation safety and search and rescue, and now he can add Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) to the list.
"It's humbling really, and obviously I am honoured, but most importantly it gives me a chance to bring attention to the Down to the Wire campaign."
Having already received a Queen's Service Medal in 1989 for services to search and rescue, Alan wasn't expecting to receive anything else.
"Normally, when they give you a gong, it's a sign you are hitting retirement, it's time to slow down. But I am not stopping anytime soon, I want to leave these skies safer than when I started flying back in the 1970s."
Alan's Down to the Wire campaign was launched in 2013 and aims to raise awareness of the dangers helicopter pilots face from wires such as electric fence feeder wires across gullies and disused television and telephone wires on the land they fly over. The goal, says Alan, is to get landowners to take down the wires.
"By doing so, they are actually saving lives. Wire strike kills pilots. You might know the wire is there, but they are hard to see and it just takes a second for the pilot to hit one and get into trouble."
Alan knows exactly what wire strike is like. It was the cause of the crash that left him with three crushed vertebrae.
"It was a case of what we call DPE - dumb pilot error. As soon as I hit that wire I knew I was in trouble. It just wrapped around the helicopter and pulled it and me to the ground."
The crash is something Alan will never forget - it turns up in dreams still, something he says many pilots have told him they have also experienced.
"I used to think it was just me, but so many pilots who have hit a wire have told me they have the same nightmares. The feeling of powerlessness, of seeing all these wires, above you, below you and there is just no way to avoid them. But at least we are alive to have those dreams."
Not every pilot who hits a wire is so lucky. It is a sobering fact that Alan has been to more funerals of pilots than he has had years in the industry.
"Not all of those 56 deaths were caused by wire strike, but a lot of them were. In the past month there have been two wire strike accidents alone. We need to make our skies safer."
It was the death of one particular pilot that Alan credits with getting his Down to the Wire campaign the attention it needed.
"I launched the campaign in 2013, when I first became chair of the New Zealand Agricultural Aviation Association [NZAAA], but it wasn't really getting much traction. Then in 2014 a good friend, Peter Robb, sadly died in a crash when the helicopter he was flying struck a wire near Whanganui in October.
"I wanted these accidents to stop. Peter was an experienced pilot who had logged more than 18,000 hours of flying. I approached Peter's daughter Shannon and asked her and Peter's widow if we could use the image from the crashed helicopter on our campaign poster."
Not only did Peter's family agree, but they got involved in the campaign. Shannon became a Down to the Wire ambassador, speaking directly to local landowners and asking them to remove dangerous wires on their property.
"Shannon also spoke at the campaign launch at Parliament in 2015. She, like all of our ambassadors, does an amazing job at making sure the message is heard."
Those ambassadors include some pretty famous names like Richie McCaw. The oldest name on the list is Australian tycoon Dick Smith, who is also a patron of the campaign, while the youngest ambassador is Nelson schoolboy Leon Fenemor. Leon became involved last year when Alan commissioned him to draw a picture for the Down to the Wire campaign after the talented youngster's picture of Alan's helicopter fighting the 2019 Tasman district fires went viral on social media.
Alan says the work of the ambassadors is invaluable in continuing to get the message out.
"We need safer skies. Having young people like Leon on board really helps, as no one wants to listen to an old bugger like me. We need to reach the younger generation and they will go home and talk to their parents. The ambassadors, whatever their age, do a great job in helping get rid of those wires and making the skies safer."
When it comes to his own success with his Eltham-based agricultural helicopter business Beck Helicopters, it's a team effort, says Alan.
"I could not do any of this without the support of my wife. She is instrumental in it all. And the business, I am just the CEO nowadays, I just turn up and fly, the actual running of it is by my son David now. He and the team do a brilliant job. We are lucky we have such good people working here. That gives me the time to focus on Down to the Wire."
Family is at the centre of everything, he says.
"I make no excuse for it. I want to make the skies safer than they were. I want my children and grandchildren to be safe, and the generations to come. I will never give up pushing for a safer agricultural and aviation ethos in New Zealand and the rest of the world."