Flying High

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-By Kristy Attard

In 1965, Bob McCabe had a vision in Tintinara – to start an aerial agribusiness together with his wife Pam and family. “Since then we’ve grown the business to the point where we now cover the whole of South Australia and the Northern Territory and we’re operating 16 aircraft,” comments Bob’s son and the Managing Director of Aerotech, Sam McCabe. Aerotech is now a highly successful and diversified market leader in its field. Today Pam and Bob retain full ownership over the business, which is continuing to soar to new heights over 40 years later.

Soaring Success

The Aerotech Group is comprised of Aerotech Agriculture (which performs spraying and spreading operations), Aerotech First Response (which conducts aerial fire fighting and oil spill response) and Aerotech GPS, which is a recently added division of Aerotech Maintenance. Aerotech has recently undergone re-branding to streamline its structure and connect the three distinct companies which form the group.

Over the past five years, Aerotech has doubled in size, growing at an impressive 10-15 per cent per annum. In July 2010, the company acquired an aerial application company based in Cummins and servicing the West Coast of South Australia, and immediately improved efficiencies by introducing new, leading-edge technologies and a larger, better-equipped fleet of aircraft. In 2011, Aerotech continued to expand, bringing an Arthurton-based aerial application business on board. And just recently the group purchased the SATLOC GPS dealership, and will take on the sale, servicing and parts for SATLOC GPS systems. The team at Aerotech is excited about entering into the world of precision guidance systems and views it as another step forward for the company.

With its breadth of expertise and emphasis on “local operators with local knowledge,” Aerotech has built a solid reputation. The company, now diversified, provides a broad scope of services to clients from Elders and Westfarmers to Bush Fires Northern Territory and AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority).

In April 2011, Mr McCabe and Emergency Services Minister Kevin Foley inspected the latest addition to the Aerotech fleet, an AT802F, as it was being built in Olney, Texas. The AT802F has a larger, more powerful Pratt and Whitney PT-6 engine that allows for faster turnaround times and ferry speeds, as well as shorter take off distances. Designed as an initial attack fire fighter, this state of the art aircraft is used to control bushfires with incredible accuracy. Aerotech First Response, working in conjunction with the government, has been involved in a number of emergency fire fighting and oil spill operations over the years, including the Zongsheng, which was the vessel that ran aground off Sydney, and the Montara Well blow out in August 2009 in Western Australia, which went down as the worst oil spill from an offshore rig in Australian history. In these emergency circumstances, Aerotech First Response is able to offer to bring its leading technology to the scene and deliver fast, effective action.

Taking Off

Australia has the highest standard of agricultural pilot qualification anywhere in the world. “We’ve got a great group of pilots; they’re very professional, they’re very committed to the job.” Mr McCabe, a licensed pilot himself, acknowledges that employing pilots with local knowledge is a huge advantage. “Everybody knows everybody and it’s a good team environment,” he comments. The company as a whole has 40 full time staff and between 10 and 15 seasonal staff depending on demand, all working as a team to provide an exceptional level of customer service. The workplace culture at Aerotech is based on commitment, dedication, and the value of hard work. Mr McCabe himself has been with the firm for 22 years now and enjoys overcoming barriers and scaling new heights. He acknowledges that while “there have been a lot of challenges over the years with building the fleet and building the business,” now the sky is the limit for Aerotech.

Aerotech understands the important role aerial spraying plays in the nation’s agricultural sector. Aerotech Agriculture is able to apply liquids like fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, foliar fertilisers and trace elements, as well as solids like superphosphate, urea, granular herbicide, and mouse and snail bait, offering a range of effective solutions for farmers. Often, spraying is simply the most efficient means of applying these sorts of materials; similarly, taking proactive, aerial measures with regards to pests is often necessary. Aerotech is well poised to offer its technology and expertise to these areas.

New Horizons

Ultimately, Mr McCabe’s vision is to continue developing Aerotech into a highly sought after business by providing clients with an excellent service. There have been a number of changes over the years at Aerotech to ensure that the company remains competitive. What will never change is the team’s commitment and passion for delivering a job well done. “We’re going to strive to continue to provide a better service,” says Mr McCabe.

Staying updated with new developments in the aerial spraying industry will see Aerotech maintain its position as a market leader. With a focus on innovation, technological advancement, and growth, Aerotech is heading soundly in the right direction.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 16, 2018, 6:42 AM AEDT