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About Steve Bell

About Steve Bell

Early Days

I was born in New Zealand, to British parents. Dad was from the north of England, and Mum was from the south.

Growing up we lived in Tawa, a small suburb just to the north of the capital city, Wellington.

You could say that we had the best of both worlds; the history of the British heritage, and the freedom of living in the paradise of New Zealand.

Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington, New Zealand

Sunderland, England

Sunderland, England in the 1800s

Dad's side of the family has a strong nautical history. We can trace our ancestors back through ship's captains, ship owners and builders, and even the technology leaders of the time. We are direct descendants of Alexander Baharie & Son who were nautical equipment manufacturers in the 1800s. They built sextants and chronometers, and they also started the first ever school of navigation.

This had an impact on me growing up in ways that I never even understood at the time. I have always had a huge passion for technology, transport, and navigation. Even as a child I remember working with programmable calculators to compute the positions of the stars and planets, and then getting outside with my telescope. And aviation ... well that's a whole story in itself.

Alexander Baharie and Son Sextant

Alexander Baharie & Son Sextant
Photo courtesy of the National Maritime Museum


My Primary Career Influence: The DSIR

DSIR Physics and Engineering Laboratory I was selected straight out of high school to be trained by New Zealand's prestigious Physics and Engineering Laboratory, in the government's Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). This was the NASA of New Zealand!

Physics and Engineering Laboratory DSIR Group Photo

DSIR had the best minds and the best equipment in the country, and everything conceivable was done at DSIR's Gracefield campus. At the annual public open days you could see everything from 'The Masher' which was used to sway skyscrapers for pioneering earthquake research, through to microelectronics built in our own thick film and silicon wafer facilities.

This was a wonderful opportunity, but it was HARD. You worked by day and studied by night. By the end of our training those of us that survived had our NZCS as well as the best work experience available.

Through the DSIR I learned that there was nothing that couldn't be done.


Later Career

After the DSIR, I worked for A.W.A. (New Zealand) Ltd., a large electronics manufacturer, working on data systems, marine equipment (radars, sonars etc.), and avionics.

Then came the Airways Corporation of New Zealand Ltd., where I worked in the Navigation Services Unit.

I formed my own company, Digital Design Ltd., and started developing new technology and software for aviation. This culminated in me being invited to Washington DC by the FAA so I could showcase my work to the FAA, NASA, and to industry. Wow ... I couldn't have wished for a better endorsement!

Many other projects have been completed along the way.

Washington DC

Washington DC


My Passion for Aviation

I have been crazy about aviation as far back as I can remember.

Me at 4 with a Bell 47

When I was 4 ...

Schweizer 300C N2092J at Jefferson County Airport, Colorado

N2092J at Jefferson County Airport, Colorado

Schweizer 300C Full Panel

In particular I love helicopters. I am fascinated by machinery weighing thousands of pounds that can suspend itself motionless in the air, while at the same time being able to maneuver to the precision of a fraction of an inch.

Anyone that has ever flown one will tell you that this is the most incredible and intimate relationship possible between man and machine.

As soon as I was able I got both my airplane and helicopter pilot licenses.

Helicopters are fantastic, but airplanes are pretty cool too, just in a different way. Nothing beats "going up for a few aerobatics", as some of my friends will tell you! And for a couple of years I was a member of the Kapiti Formation flying team. We put on displays at airshows, and competed throughout New Zealand.

Flying in New Zealand and flying in the United States is very different. In New Zealand you are always in awe of spectacular scenery. In the US everything is BIG. You have the joys of being "swallowed up by the numbers" as you land at the end of an 8,000' runway - all you can see is white paint - then you taxi for an eternity, and finally have a lineman wave his batons and guide you in to your parking spot. You're flying a little Schweizer but you're being treated like a 747!

Doing some aerobatics near Kapiti Island, New Zealand

Doing some aerobatics near Kapiti Island, New Zealand



Steve Bell and Anne Marie Fournier, Competition Tango Steve Bell and Anne Marie Fournier, Competition Hustle Dancing is also a passion of mine.

I love ballroom, latin, and swing dancing, and I've competed in the American Rhythm, and American Smooth categories.

It has been a privilege to have had some wonderful instructors.

And yes, I do watch "Dancing with the Stars". Perhaps next season they'll give me a call! 



Most days I work out at the YMCA, and I love getting involved and helping with the Y's various community programs.

The YMCA is an incredible organization. With a heritage dating back to 1875, they are a community based organization with programs ranging from financial assistance so nobody gets turned away, through to youth development, and counseling.

Many people have had their lives changed by the YMCA. It is a privilege to get involved and watch people grow.

YMCA YMCA Breakfast of Champions

YMCA Breakfast of Champions

YMCA Annual Celebration

YMCA Annual Celebration