About Steve Bell
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
Wellington, New Zealand
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 & Son Sextant
Photo courtesy of the National Maritime Museum
My Primary Career Influence: The DSIR
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!
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
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
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.
My Passion for Aviation
I have been crazy about aviation as far back as I can remember.
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
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.