Squadron Leader Paul Simmons, RAAF instructor and Temora display pilot, has won the Oswald Watt Gold Medal for “The Most Notable Contribution to Aviation by an Australian”. It is the first time the award has been made since 1999.
Sqn Ldr Simmons was presented with the award at RAAF Base Amberley on May 31 by Marj Davis, President of the Royal Federation of Aero Clubs Australia (RFACA).
In nominating Simmons, the RAAF citation noted his “unique combination of professional mastery as an operational fighter pilot, dedication to the mentoring and instruction of junior aircrew, commitment to the preservation of aviation heritage as the Australian CA-27 Sabre pilot and establishment of the LIFT youth charity make him a standout for the Oswald Watt award.”
Simmons has had many highlights in his flying career, including:
- Air force exchange with the USAF flying F-15 Strike Eagles
- Awarded the USAF 333rd Fighter Squadron’s “Most Exceptional Instructor Pilot” award
- Drafting the 81 Wing (RAAF) procedures manual, which forms the foundation of the RAAF’s fighter capability
- 2006 Hornet display pilot
- Senior F/A18A fighter instructor at 2 OCU Williamtown
- Display pilot for the RAAF CA-27 Sabre operated by the Temora Aviation Museum
In 2007, Simmons established the LIFT Foundation, a youth mentoring charity. The program introduces at-risk adolescents to the discipline, responsibility and self-reliance demanded by the aviation environment. His commitment to LIFT means he now shares his time 70:30 between the RAAF and the foundation, and accepts a cut in salary to do so.
The Oswald Watt Gold Medal was established in the name of Colonel Walter Oswald Watt, a former Australian Flying Corps pilot who in 1921 bequeathed 500 pounds to the Australian Aero Club for the purpose of an annual gold medal to the Australian who “put up the most brilliant performance in the air during the year.” The award is now under the control of the RFACA executive, who decides each year if the medal should be awarded. No award has been made since 1999 because no nominees were considered worthy. Past winners have included Frank Briggs, Charles Kingsford Smith, PG Taylor, Sir Reginald Ansett and Andy Thomas.