Last weekend, the Scouts NSW Air Activity Centre at Camden clocked up an impressive 50 years in operation.
The AAC first opened its doors in 1972, operating Cessna 150F VH-ROO Skippy. Since then 250,000 Scouts have been introduced to aviation via the AAC and hundreds have done pilot training there.
Scouts NSW marked the milestone with a Open Day at their Camden base on Saturday.
NSW Scouts Chief Commissioner Neville Tomkins OAM said that the success of the AAC is an achievement for the entire Scout movement.
“Considering the history and success of Scouts NSW Air Activity Centre and our members past and present, 50 years of Scouts NSW operating the centre and opening the world of flying to young people is a significant milestone for all Scouts.
“This celebration is not only to commemorate the achievements of Scouts pioneers but to inspire and encourage our youth to live their aero dreams.
“The goal of Scouts is for youth members to learn life skills such as independent thinking, leadership and problem solving. The Air Activity Centre provides unique aviation related activities that contribute to this learning in a fun and practical way.”
For those that trained there, memories of the AAC are never far from their minds.
Greg Davie, State Commissioner, Air Activities Scouts NSW has been flying with the AAC since he was a Scout himself and did his first solo flight in 1979.
“Flying is something I’ve always been passionate about, and Scouts really inspired me to get into the cockpit from an early age," he said. "I’ve been an active pilot since the early ‘80s and last year at almost 60, I finally received my Commercial Pilot’s Licence and Flight Instructor Rating which was a lifelong goal of mine."
From the quarter of a million Scouts associated with the program, many have progressed to successful careers in aviation; including former Scouts Boyd Williams, Sean Golding and Geoff Scrimes, all of whom joined Qantas as flight crew, while Daniel Rotenstein completed his first solo flight at the Air Activity Centre almost a decade ago and recently obtained his wings with the RAAF.
International Commissioner Aaron Wardle also trained at the AAC and joined Qantas.
And it's not only Scouts that benefit, the Air Activity Centre is particularly proud of 16-year-old Girl Guide Chloe Familton, who qualified for her PPL last year, doing her training alongside her father. Chloe can now fly before she can drive and has more hours in the air than she does in a car.
Flight training is done at Camden with partner school Altocap under the guidance of Head of Operations George Raby, himself a uniformed Scout Leader.
Among the AAC illumni is Senior Pilot Audrey Williams. Williams was both a Ranger Leader for Girl Guides and a Scout member of the AAC. She began learning to fly at the AAC in September 1972 and was the first female member to gain her wings. She was awarded the Nancy-Bird Walton Trophy in April 1985 for the most noteworthy contribution to aviation by a woman in Australia.
The centre runs regular Air Activity Days at Camden for local Scout groups and also conducts remote air activity days, taking aviation to Scouts in remote areas. Days at Taree, Casino and Cootamundra are planned over July-August.
More information on the Scouts NSW Air Activity Centre is on the Scouts NSW website.