After almost 70 years of incident-free flying, Te Kawa farmer Hugh Baxter has decided not to renew his pilot's licence.

It all began in March 1949 when he joined the Waikato Aero Club.

Hugh would cycle the 64km round trip to Rukuhia Aerodrome between milkings for flight training in Tiger Moths with Squadron Leader Guy Robertson, the founder of early Waikato-based aerial topdressing company Robertson Air Service.

Soloing after eight hours' instruction, he soon obtained his A Licence in November 1949, the requirement then was a couple of circuits around the old control tower and a landing to the satisfaction of a Civil Aviation Testing officer.


How things have changed.

In March 1950 Hugh passed his full Private Licence entitling him to carry passengers, which he has done regularly until recently.

Further experience was gained over the years with the addition of Auster, Piper, Cessna and Airtourer ratings to his certificate.

Hugh formed a flying partnership lasting 42 years with neighbouring Pōkuru farmer Peter Bouma.

The pair purchased a two-seat Cessna in 1976, allowing them to travel much of the country by attending both local and regional fly-ins.

Upgrading later to several four-seat aircraft with better range and performance allowed for a successful return Trans-Tasman crossing to join the NZ Aircraft Owners Safari of Australia during the winter of 2002.

This was a dream come true, a unique and rewarding exercise to complete.

The transition from old compass and map reading to modern GPS navigation techniques over such a long period was initially quite daunting, but he says that once mastered has been a very reliable asset.


Hugh's other highlights have been involvement with Air Scouts and New Zealand Precision Flying Champs, as well as holding positions on Rotary, Te Awamutu College BOT and Young Farmers at local level.

Hugh confesses not to be a high time pilot, however he says his regular flying experiences over such a long period, the places he's been and the like-minded people he's enjoyed meeting no one can ever take from him.

He was made Patron of the Waitomo Aero Club in 2012, a position he still holds.