• Yarra Valley Aviation CEO Roger Merridew speaks at the 2019 Lilydale Air Show. (Kevin Hanrahan)
    Yarra Valley Aviation CEO Roger Merridew speaks at the 2019 Lilydale Air Show. (Kevin Hanrahan)

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the Australian Division of the Royal Aeronautical Society and Australian Flying magazine are proud to announce the winners of the 2020 Wings Awards. The Wings Awards were inaugurated in 2014 to recognise the efforts of the many people who have dedicated their lives to general aviation, either through individual effort or as part of an aero club or flying school. It is passion that deserves to be acknowledged and sets a very good example for the general aviation community as a whole.

This year, the judging panel–consisting of people from Australian Flying and the Australian Division of the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS)–had to contend with more nominations than ever before, making for a mammoth task in sifting through the submissions to find the most worthy winners. On top of that, there was a new category to deal with: the Young Achiever of the Year.

Col Pay Award for a Lifetime of Service to General Aviation

2020 Winner – Roger Merridew

Roger Merridew was selected from a very strong field of candidates.

Merridew and his wife Neroli resurrected the flagging Lilydale Airport in 1982, transforming it into a vibrant centre for general aviation on the outskirts of Melbourne. Merridew has also been a contributor to the Victorian Regional Airspace Procedures Advisory Committee (RAPAC) for a number of years, and been an enthusiastic proponent of Beechcraft and Victa aircraft in Australia. Merridew has also spent countless hours fighting for regional airports to state and municipal councils. Roger is a life member both the American Beechcraft Society and the Australian Beechcraft Society. Both Roger and Neroli have overseen a flying school that has taught many pilots that have gone on to careers in with the airlines and in the military. They have also organised several air shows at Lilydale Airport as a way to promote GA to the public and were for many years active in Rotary.

Flying Instructor of the Year

2020 Winner – Peter Hales, Busselton Aero Club

Peter Hales is the CFI/HOO of Busselton Aero Club in WA, and has been described as the ultimate flying instructor. Teaching students for over 30 years, Hales has fostered countless aviation careers both private and commercial from the aero clubs at both Busselton and Bunbury. He is known for his hands-on approach so students become aware of aircraft handling and cleanliness, leading to pride in their achievements. With a calm and patient natures, he creates a cockpit environment conducive to good learning. Hales also engages with students and parents of younger trainees to discuss flight experiences and future goals. In recent years, Hales has also connected with students and potential students through the Learning to Fly forum.

Flying Training Organisation of the Year

2020 Winner – Tristar Aviation

Tristar Aviation has taken out this category for the second year in a row, a testimony to the school and its approach to good training. As well as being approved to conduct training at almost every level from RPL and PPL through commercial and IFR to just about every rating and endorsement, Tristar has embarked on a schools program with Federation University to provide a Bachelor of Applied Management – Aviation that gives students a greater understanding of the industry than the syllabus requires. This dovetails into Tristar's Year 11 and 12 VET courses. The organisation is also one of the most active advocates in GA, with substantial involvement in Women in Aviation, Moorabbin Airport Consultative Group, Moorabbin Airport Chamber of Commerce and the Australian Air League. Tristar has also actively fostered training agreements in India and Nepal, and has been instrumental in setting up the Indian Women Pilots Association. The school has also participated in government trade missions to China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia. Tristar CEO Adrianne Fleming OAM is also on the CASA Aviation Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP).

Aero Club of the Year

2020 Winner – Clare Valley Flying Group

There are not too many aero clubs in Australia that have transformed a paddock into an airport with a 1200-metre sealed runway complete with lighting, but that's exactly what the Clare Valley Flying Group did! Formed in 2009, this small, but vibrant group recognised the need for an airport to service the wine-rich Clare Valley region. Through tireless efforts, they secured a donation of 29 hectares of land and raised funds to build the all-weather runway. The not-for-profit group now manages the airport and has fostered beneficial and constructive relationships with businesses and regional councils. Through their efforts, the Clare region is now served by a suitable airport, increasing tourism and providing business opportunities, and has an airport usable by the RFDS and other air ambulances. Spencer Gulf Flight Training now also operates a flying school there so local students no longer have to travel to Adelaide. The group's foresight, determination and never-say-die attitude makes them a very worthy winner of the 2020 Aero Club of the Year.

Young Achiever of the Year

2020 Winner – Nathan Parker

Losing his left hand in a military bus accident in 2015 has not stopped Nathan Parker from pursuing his dream to be a professional aviator. Ruled out from a defence career, he turned his focus and energy to civil aviation. Parker now has a CPL with multi-engine command instrument rating (MECIR) and an aerobatic endorsement. He also has qualified as an RAAus instructor and is working toward the GA equivalent. On top of that, Parker also volunteers as a youth mentor at a number of organisations and has won nine medals at the Invictus Games. He completed a Bachelor of Technology (Aviation) at the Australian Defence Force Academy in 2017, and during the COVID-19 pandemicprovided valuable admin assistance to Northern Rivers Aero Club. NRAC Head of Operations Bill Kiernan summed up Parker's contribution thus: "Having witnessed first hand, some of the more challenging times of his rehabilitation including the loss of his career as a military pilot, then his determination to pursue his chosen career plus the respect of both his students and peers makes me believe he will be a success no matter which path in aviation he chooses to pursue."

CASA and Australian Flying congratulate all the winners of the 2020 Wings Awards, and thank the Australian Division of the Royal Aeronautical Society and judges Andrew Drysdale, Doug Nancarrow, David Pilkington and Shelley Ross for their efforts this year.

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