The Honourable Company of Air Pilots incorporating Air Navigators

The Grand Master's Australian Medal

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.


2019 awarded to:  Royal Australian Air Force Aircraft Research and Development Unit

018 RAAF Aircraft Research And Devlopment Unit - GM AusThe Royal Australian Air Force’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit celebrated 75 years of continuous service on the 1st December 2018. Over these 75 years the Aircraft Research and Development Unit has pioneered flight test in the Australian Defence Force enabling aviation capability development for the Royal Australian Airforce and Australian Regular Army.

The Aircraft Research and Development Unit’s origins stem from the World War II need for the Royal Australian Air Force to keep pace with local aircraft production and research and development, through establishment of an interface between developing industry and operational service. To meet this need, the Number 1 Aircraft Performance Unit (renamed to the Aircraft Research and Development Unit in 1948) was formed on the 1st December 1943 at Laverton, Victoria. The unit was charged to undertake ‘type trials’ of aircraft from local and overseas production; flight trials of aircraft modifications and ancillary equipment; the evolution of tactical methods of employing aircraft and equipment; full scale flight testing as an auxiliary to, or in conjunction with, laboratory research; and co-operation with government departments, manufacturers and scientific research institutions. 

Some of the unit’s early trials included performance testing of the Spitfire Mk VIII, Ventura take-off tests, Boomerang roll-rate testing, and installation of wing guns on the Wirraway. Additionally, testing was performed on captured Japanese 'Oscar' and 'Tony' fighter aircraft for performance characterization and counter-tactic development.

The end of World War II did not curtail Aircraft Research and Development Unit’s role, instead, seeing it expand in scope - technically and geographically, In 1947, the Aircraft Research and Development Unit supported American cosmic ray research, assisted the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation with rain-making trials and unmanned aerial vehicle development and in 1950 test flew the Pika, the first jet aircraft to be designed and built in Australia. The Pika was later developed into the Jindivik, the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy’s pilotless target drone, which operated successfully from 1952 to 1990.

In more recent times, the Aircraft Research and Development Unit has continued to be at the forefront of aviation development in the Royal Australian Air Force conducting complex weapon system trials such as the addition of the Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile (JASSM) onto the F/A-18A/B aircraft; leading coalition air-to-air refuelling clearances between the Airbus KC-30A and a diverse range of receiver aircraft, as well as facilitating operational evaluations of new tactics.

Across its history, the Aircraft Research and Development Unit has continued to play a vital role in developing Australian aviation, both in the Defence and civilian sectors. The unit has flown every in-service Royal Australian Air Force and almost all Australian Army aircraft types past and present, ranging from the Mustang and Meteor, to the P-8A, Poseidon and Army’s Tiger, Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter. The Unit’s dedicated team of Test Pilots, Flight Test Engineers, Flight Test Systems Specialists and Operational Evaluator Aircrew remain ready to plan, conduct and report on flight test, integrating the capabilities of the Royal Australian Airforce and providing subject matter expertise on everything from human factors to testing of tactical datalinks.

Today, as it has done over the past 75 years the Aircraft Research and Development Unit continues to fulfil its motto, to ‘Prove to Accomplish’ while evolving as part of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Air Warfare Centre. Ensuring it plays its part in continuing the Royal Australian Air Force’s transition to a 5th Generation Air Force under Plan Jericho. The Royal Australian Air Force’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit is a worthy recipient of the Grand Master’s Australian Medal.



Previous Awards

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

2019  RAAF Aircraft Research and Development Unit