From thrilling fly-aways, riveting quiz shows, monthly competitions and strategic financial lobbying, the Central Coast Aero Club’s recipe for success has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Recently celebrated for its exceptional achievements with the 2022 Australian Flying CASA Wings Aero Club of the Year Award, CCAC continues to soar high by blending innovation and unwavering commitment to its members.
The club has undergone a dynamic transformation, propelling itself into a position of influence and credibility within the aviation community.
‘Our mantra is safety first, passion and experience always,’ explains club general manager Andrew Smith.
‘Back in 2015 our fleet was sort of run down – it was still safe but cosmetically it was looking pretty average.
‘We were averaging only 136 hours a month flight time. We’ve tripled that to 420 hours a month now. We’ve also got 50 aircraft on the field and all our outside parking and hangars are full.
‘I am happy to say that a lot of TLC has gone into the fleet under the guidance of our maintenance manager who started with us in 2016, and it is now looking as good as it is mechanically sound.
‘The club has also focussed on teaming with Paul Bennet Airshows, installing concrete pads to flood-proof tie down areas, replacing outdated fuel delivery systems and hosting a new CASA-approved FRASCA synthetic flight simulator.
‘So, it’s going really, really well – being busy has its own stresses, but it’s better than trying to be on the flip side of the coin.’
Andrew mentions strategic social media promotion has also been a huge driver in the turnaround of the club.
‘I’m a photographer as well, so we use a lot of great aviation imagery on our Facebook and Instagram accounts and we do a lot of promotion through social media – that was also a huge factor of the turn-around,’ he adds.
‘We’ve been able to expose thousands of members of the public to general aviation via our air shows, gained goodwill through free charity flights for disabled children and regained the full runway length after campaigning for tree removal.
‘Our club is equipped to train pilots from recreational pilots to commercial pilots and offers instructor ratings, instrument and night ratings, multi-engine and a multitude of flight activity endorsements and theory courses.
‘We also actively engage with local schools as part of their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program and we also invite students from local schools to tour the facilities and promote aviation as a future career.’
The club’s efforts were recently recognised, with CASA’s Karen Blair, Steve Creedy and Prue Zamora on hand to present the Wings Award at the club’s 50th anniversary gala dinner at its Warnervale location.
The event included a remarkable 6-ship formation flight with a Cessna 172, 2 Cessna 150s, an ex-military CT4B, along with 2 Yak-52s, leaving all spectators in awe.
With the award firmly in hand, Andrew says the club would love to continue growing in the future.
‘If we had the space and the funds, we’d buy more aeroplanes and employ more instructors, but trying to upgrade an aging fleet is a huge capital expense,’ he says. ‘We’re not quite there yet, though we have a new RV-12 is SLSA trainer arriving in February as a test case to replace our C150 trainers.
‘This award has been a true validation for the extremely hard work that has been put in by the staff, board and membership more generally.
‘While we all know how well we have been performing, it is truly inspiring to be recognised by Australia’s peak aviation body and regulator and will help push us to continue on the successful trajectory we have been forging over the last 8 years.’