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.


2020 Awarded to:  Captain Susan McHaffie


Captain Susan (Sue) McHaffie commenced her aviation career in 1989 as a flight instructor. For almost ten years she demonstrated her passion for training rising to become a Chief Flight Instructor and Examiner but most importantly she influenced and shaped the careers of many pilots flying across the world today.

In 1998 she commenced her relationship with the Bombardier (now De-Havilland) products by joining Flight Safety International initially as a Flight Simulator and Ground Instructor. By 2005, she was recognised by many Dash 8 operators as a technical expert on type so Tyrolean Airlines in Europe requested her assistance with the Dash 8 Q400 for 2 years from Flight Safety International. Following this Air Canada Jazz (Air Canada’s Regional Airline) signed her up for another two years to assist with and fly the Bombardier CRJ. After assisting Jazz she returned to Flight Safety International.

GMs Aus Medal Susan McHaffieBy 2010, her skills and capability were recognised by Flight Safety International and she was appointed as Director of Programs. In this role she was responsible for courseware and material development for the Bombardier commercial product line, including the Twin Otter, Dash 7, Dash 8, Q400 and CRJ aircraft. She developed training programs including training manuals, presentations and exams as well being responsible for the regulatory approvals of training materials. She was Flight Safety’s liaison with Bombardier (now De-Havilland) Flight Operations.

In the same year, she was recognised by the North American aviation industry as a Subject Matter Expert on pilot training and the Dash 8 which culminated in her being appointed to the US Congress Committee and Industry Panel into the Colgan Air 3407 Dash 8 Q400 accident at Buffalo, New York. Following this she was appointed by the FAA to the UPRT development and training committee to formulate and develop UPRT training for industry which issued the first Advisory Circular (AC).

After 15 years with Flight Safety International and establishing a significant mark in both North American and European training, she accepted a role as Manager Fleet Technical and Development with QantasLink in Australia. Leaving her native Canada, she headed to Australia in 2013 to head up the Fleet Technical and Development department across Australia’s largest regional airline.

For the next seven years, her skill set from technical knowledge, training and development shone through in the following achievements at QantasLink –

·        Introduced the iPad as the electronic flight bag – first in the world for regional airlines

·        Developed the first in country and the world Load App onto the iPad – mitigate significant loading risks and delivered enhanced operational efficiency

·        Developed the first centralised Flight Planning app to deliver fuel efficiency benefits and provide pilots with a “one stop” shop

·        Implemented fuel efficiency measures across the QantasLink fleet

·        Developed a new operations manual suite

·        Implemented various electronic mediums for training

During this journey, her innate vision saw her develop and founder an initiative in 2014 which became a worldwide movement – namely FlyPink. She decided to combine her love of aviation with a family connection to breast cancer and identified an opportunity for pilots to swap their traditional epaulettes for pink epaulettes during the month of October which is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Money raised from the epaulettes went to Breast Cancer organisations.

Since 2014, the movement of FlyPink has literally taken off globally. Today Fly Pink not only see epaulettes being worn by pilots but engineers, ground teams and also modified pink wings for Cabin Crew. The movement is truly a reflection on her commitment and passion to a wonderful cause which is now an industry supported event.

Ironically in 2017 after raising so much money for breast cancer, the founder of FlyPink was to be diagnosed with breast cancer herself. She faced the challenge with grace and wonderful tenacity resulting last year with a clear diagnosis.

After 30 years associated with flying operations, she decided a new challenge beckoned. As a pilot, instructor, examiner and aircraft technical expert she was appointed to the Airworthiness and Engineering team as the Manager for Continuing Airworthiness Organisation Services late last year. In this role she will leverage her technical and leadership capability to support and develop the Airworthiness organisation. This is the first time a pilot has been appointed to such a position and CASA was fully supportive of this appointment based on the respect they have for her capability.

Today as an Australian citizen, Captain Susan (Sue) McHaffie is well respected by industry and regulators across the globe. She has made a significant contribution to the industry not just through her technical and training skills and capability but by leaving a legacy through FlyPink which will no doubt be a movement that future generations of the industry will reflect on and realise that one person can start a movement by combining their love of the industry with a common dream to make a difference.

For her meritorious contribution to aviation Captain Susan McHaffie is the Grand Master’s Australian Medal recipient for 2020.


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

2020 Captain Susan Mchaffie