In our Away From Home series The News takes a look at Central Otago people working overseas. This week we hear from Dubai-based pilot Laurie Agnew.

I was educated . . . at Waihopai Primary, Rosedale Intermediate and then Southland Boys’ High School, until the end of my school certificate year (1975).

The last year and a-half I boarded at Coldstream Hostel, after which I moved to Alexandra and attended Dunstan High School for 6th and 7th form [years 12 and 13].

Piloting dreams started .in 1976 when my friend Julian Kinnaird said he was applying for the RNZAF to be a pilot.

I thought it was a great idea, so I did the same.

So, in May 1979 I left my beloved family and friends in Central Otago to join the RNZAF at Wigram in Christchurch

But, first . . . I had to wait a year and a-half. University didn’t interest me and flying was to be my passion.

So, I got a job as a truck driver with Alexandra Transport to help pay for flying lessons.

I joined the Central Otago Flying Club to get flying experience and to see if flying was for me.

Of the small amount of flying I did in Central Otago, I thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly the scenery in winter.


Setting the scene . . . Emirates captain Laurie Agnew (second, from right and inset) enjoys a visit to the Acropolis in Athens with some of his family (from left) wife Julie and daughters Lucy (19) and Greta (18) Agnew. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED/ LAURIE AGNEW


After the air force . . . I joined Air New Zealand in May 1985.

My first posting was to the F27 Fokker Friendship as a first officer.

During a six-month break I returned to Alexandra and flew for, what was, Goldfields Air, taking cherries and sometimes passengers to Christchurch and, occasionally, as far as Blenheim.

I returned to Air NZ to fly the B747-400 and later the A320 Airbus as captain for eight years before moving to the 767.

I spent 28 fantastic years at Air NZ, but it was time for a new challenge.

Emirates then beckoned .where I applied for the position of captain on the B777, in 2012.

I had wondered what the expat life would be like, after having previously turned down a job with Cathay Pacific.

So, Dubai it was to be.

We fly . . . everywhere from Bahrain (45 minutes away) to South America (14 hours 45 minutes away).

I think, overall, 130 destinations.

I also do freighter flights.

My favourite destinations would be Budapest, Zagreb and Nice.

The company . works pilots hard, but looks after them extremely well, providing housing, transport, medical and education.

My two daughters receive an amazing secondary education here in Dubai under the British system.

Looking to the future .. I still have a further five and a-half years to complete before mandatory retirement aged 65.

In that time I intend on visiting as much of the world as I can before returning to NZ and, hopefully, Wanaka – wife permitting. You cannot beat the Central Otago lifestyle.

I miss . . . the relaxed nature of Central and the friendly people who live there.

  • Do you know of anyone from Central Otago who has an interesting job overseas? Let the team at The News know by emailing or phone 03) 440-0041.

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