Grant Stewart - Flying with the funnyman

4 minutes read
Posted 21 May, 2024
01 v52

Grant with fiancé and former Flame co-owner Dawn Sherbrooke

He’s best known as a quick-witted funnyman MC and broadcaster, but behind all the hilarity Grant Stewart also has an impressive serious side.

The 61-year-old has landed many visiting tourists safely back on terra firma in his 35 years as a pilot, clocking almost 7000 hours, and earned several degrees.

Born in Timaru, he moved to Queenstown at three when his dad, a K-Force vet, got a job managing Europa’s Frankton Service Centre.

Grant excelled at school, skipping a year, and leaving after sixth form to join the Air Force, turning down preferential entry into veterinary science.

Despite being renowned for mischievous antics on air during 10 years of ‘The Odd Couple’ – Q92FM’s dynamic breakfast duo with ‘Ferg’, Grant ‘sat up the front’ at school. “But we were the cool buggers – me, Alan Todd, and Steve Boyd. I had a Raleigh Chopper bike,” Grant grins. “I always went to the cliff and had a wee look over the edge.” But he never jumped. He was good at physics.

As school athletics champion, he cleaned up South Island titles.

His first night skiing was aged 12 – a fundraiser for the ski club. “Sugar Robinson’s son was in my class. They still had a halfway station then and they’d lit orchard pots along the runs.”

School holidays were spent pumping petrol, working for Lyn Kramer’s kayak hire, and stoking on the Earnslaw.

After his Air Force training Grant was posted to 40 Squadron at Whenuapai as a ground engineer on Hercules, then Hobsonville, working on Iroquois for 3 Squadron, and back to the Sonic Testing Bay in Blenheim before completing a NZ Certificate in Engineering.

His Teacher’s College Bachelor of Education didn’t get used. Instead, he worked as a barman at Skyline and got into river guiding with Whitewater Adventures, Dane’s and Kawarau Rafts.

He was enrolled to do his Masters in Psychology at Canterbury Uni when he met an American girl, following her to the US where he worked guiding for Downstream River Runners, earning some easy cash.

But aviation was always the pull, so Grant trained commercially at Boeing Field in Seattle, completing 230 hours up to his multi-engine instrument rating, before completing his instructors rating and gaining his commercial pilot’s licence in Nelson.

Pumping petrol at night, Grant would pester Q92 DJ Andrew Patterson to play his favourite heavy metal. “The Grunge movement was just kicking off and I went in for their public, have a go Desert Island shift one night. Chas (Drader) thought I sounded good and offered me a job.”

That launched a successful career in radio, including national copywriter for big corporate events like Winter Festival, and ‘The Odd Couple’ with Ferg.

“Chas gave us a lot of rope. I was hired on my 1970s music knowledge and Ferg because he was a Junior All Black,” Grant grins.

They were the last of the independent stations, and when the networks took over Grant got out. He reckons he’d go to prison now for some of the live on-air pranks they pulled – one temporarily got him and Andrew the sack one day. “An unimpressed Chas called us into his office and pulled out the old typewriter and started writing. We knew that was it.” However, once he got settled at McNeill’s Chas called. “I’ve got a few ads for you to write if you can come back this afternoon,” Grant says. “But he kept our resignation letters in the office.”

The US Secret Service took the bait when Grant and Ferg convinced listeners they were hiding in the undergrowth outside Millbrook waiting for visiting US President Bill Clinton to appear during his 1999 Queenstown visit. “The Secret Service guys were looking all over for us. They came in later and autographed our studio walls.”

Grant’s live on-air Michael Hill impersonation also had pub owner Clark Frew worried for his bank account during the NZ Golf Open when his golf ball dented a giant wētā sculpture at The Hills.

Grant and Andrew Schollum’s late night Extreme Noise show drew in big American names and won them Special Commendation at the NZ Media Awards.

He’s also flown for Air Fiordland, escaping with his and his passengers’ lives unscathed when forced to crash land with frosted wings in 2005, and flew for Real Journeys and the Aero Club.

In 2014, he was accepted into the University of NSW completing a Post Graduate Masters in Aviation Psychology (Human Factors), combining years of flying experience and relationships with SAR teams, police and tourism companies.

But his bumpiest ride was still ahead. In 2016 he was diagnosed with a squamous cell carcinoma in his head and neck, losing his aviation medical, but saving his life.

Doors opened in aviation safety, with Ngai Tahu Tourism, Heliworks, and now as safety manager for HeliSupport International Antarctica, holding senior CAA safety roles.

And yes, that pilot’s licence has been reinstated.

02 v21

Grant Stewart entertains for Q92 at the 1997 Upper Clutha Dog Barking Championships


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