Awarded to an individual, a group or organisation involved in any branch of aviation in the Australian Region or to Australian nationals abroad, who or which has made a meritorious contribution to any aviation activity, either by displaying technical excellence or by the development of a procedure or operational technique of an outstanding nature.
2018 awarded to: James Eric Thurstan
Jim’s aviation career began in 1955 as an apprentice engineer, this training culminating in the award on graduation of the Arthur Baird Shield as Dux of the Qantas Technical School. Following qualification on the airframe and engines of the Boeing B707-300, Lockheed L1049 and L188, Jim was posted to Route Stations which was a rare award for a newly graduated engineer! Service throughout the Qantas network saw him gain extensions on the BOAC B707-400 & VC10 and ANZ DC8-52 with his final post being Maintenance Manager Mauritius.
In 1970 he commenced flying as Flight Engineer on the B707, finally retiring as a Senior Check & Training Engineer on the B747. After retirement, he worked as a simulator instructor at Qantas for 6 years. However, in 1993 he became Senior Project Engineer on the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society’s (HARS) Lockheed Super Constellation restoration in Tucson, Arizona. Jim supervised and worked on the aircraft while also co-developing the technical course for the aircrew who would eventually fly the aircraft trans-Pacific and subsequently within Australia. He also qualified and flew as flight engineer on this aircraft.
In 1987, a South Australian replica Fokker VIIb/3m “Southern Cross II” VH-USU was completed and flown to commemorate the inaugural trans-Pacific crossing by the original Southern Cross in 1928. She is the largest reproduction aircraft in the world ad carries the original registration. Unfortunately, in May 2002, the starboard wheel became detached on takeoff and during the subsequent crash landing approximately 3m of the starboard wingtip was broken off. After a series of negotiations for her repair, in 2010 she was trucked to HARS at Illawarra regional Airport and repairs commenced.
Jim Thurstan became the Project Engineer for the aircraft. Under the guidance of Bill Whitney, designer of the SCII, and Captain Bruce Simpson, certifying engineer, Jim has led the team through a complete engineering audit of the aircraft including modification to the tail area and repair of the airframe. The crowning glory has been the repair of the wing to airworthy standard! Using FAA data as best practice, model and prototype repairs to gauge bonding, materials, methods and failure paths, new outer spars were scarfed onto the old wing with attendant manufacture of ribs and re-skinning. Stress testing of the wing with pallets of house-bricks being forked in and positioned by enthusiastic members of the local squadron of Australian Air Force Cadets was completed and in May 2018, the wing was mated with the fuselage.
Throughout this painstaking process, Jim’s leadership, practical approach and exhausting research has enabled an aircraft considered iconic in the history of Australian aviation to once again be capable of taking to the air.
For his innovation and methodology in aircraft engineering Jim Thurstan is awarded the Grand Master’s Australian Medal.
1981/82 H C Minnett Esq Dr D N Cooper Dr J P Wild CSIRO Interscan Team
1983 Not Awarded
1983/84 Brian Hamilton Heeps Esq
1985 Not Awarded
1985/86 Dr Henry Millicer
1986/87 Ingo Renner Esq
1987/88 Wing Commander Bernard I Fernandes
1989 - 1990 Not Awarded
1990/91 Don M Kendell Esq
1991/92 Laurence C Gruzman Esq
1993 Not Awarded
1993/94 Squadron Leader Kevin W Rushworth
1994/95 Captain Ernest A Girault
1995/96 Gary Lawson-Smith Esq
1996/97 Australian Mission Aviation Fellowship
1997/98 The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Inc.
1999 Not Awarded
1999/2000 John G Roncz & Graham Swannell
2000/01 Captain Trevor Jensen
2001/02 Bob Peake
2002/03 Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia
2004 - 2006 Not Awarded
2006/07 C-17 Transition Team & 36 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force
2007/08 Number 92 Wing, Royal Australian Air Force
2008/09 The School of Air Warfare, Royal Australian Air Force
2009/10 816 Squadron Royal Australian Navy
2010/11 Air Mobility Control Centre RAAF
2012 Not Awarded
2012/13 Emergency Management Queensland - Helicopter Rescue
2013/14 Royal Australian Air Force Ageing Aircraft Systems Audit Team
2014/15 Flight Training Adelaide
2016 Temora Aviation Museum
2017 Royal Australian Air Force Aerobatic Team - The Roulettes
2018 James Eric Thurstan