The Honourable Company of Air Pilots incorporating Air Navigators

The Grand Master's Medal

Awarded to an individual under the age of 30 for outstanding achievement and endeavour in any field of aviation.

(Amended Terms of Reference 2019)


2019 awarded to:  Aaron Keith Pearce


Mr Aaron Pearce was born in Southland in February 1988. He took his first flying lesson in August 2011 at Southern Wings in Invercargill where he continued his training until he achieved his CPL and C-cat instructor rating. This training was part-funded by his hard work in a number of positions outside of the aviation industry. He subsequently obtained employment at Gore Aero Club, Wakatipu Aero Club and then U-fly out of Wanaka.

In February 2016 Aaron then applied for and was selected to be the new CFI at South Canterbury aero club as a C-cat instructor and promptly prepared for and achieved B-cat privileges at first attempt very soon after arrival. At this time the club was in the doldrums with monthly flight hours be3 Aaron Pearce Grand Masters Medallow 45 and forecast as having to start selling aircraft within 6 months. The engine overhaul provision had been raided to pay running costs of the club. Aaron realised very quickly that the hours and functions needed to grow immediately to protect his employment and save the club.

Firstly, he gathered together a small team and reinstated the Young Eagles program limited to 10 participants. Under his management this soon became one of the leading Young Eagles programmes in the countryFlying New Zealand had to change its scholarship rules to enable more than one person to win a scholarship from a single club to accommodate the very high standard of the SCAC candidates. (Flying NZ is the commercial name of the Royal New Zealand Aero Club Inc and operates under the constitution and rules of that society.)

These Young Eagles are all in the process of working towards PPL, with one already achieving this goal. In both 2018 and 2019, four of the South Canterbury Young Eagles achieved a Flying NZ scholarship, out of the six on offer in each of those years.

He then set up the club Gateway program through schools, which now involves four of the local schools. As if this was not enough Aaron has also set up a 2-year aviation programme for international students with one of the High Schools.  Now, at any one time, there are 5 students on that programme. The club has also just had a Part 135 re-entry with associated SMS. This involved a total rewrite of the manuals that Aaron undertook mostly in his own time with assistance of one retired club member.

Aaron has a passion for aerobatics but the club did not have an aerobatics capability. This became a challenge for him and he sought and found a suitable aircraft, had it inspected, and convinced club members to fund the purchase through an interest-free debenture.

Aaron has difficulty in saying no and strives to make a positive difference and so has become an active and valued member of the Flying NZ Instructors’ Council. Still keen to help more he took on the role006 Aaron Pearce - GM Medal of Lakes Area representative for Flying NZ. Aaron is still the founding administrator of the Facebook KIWI PILOTS page that was his brainchild and currently has 5,183 members.

The President of Flying NZ states “I have flown multiple times with Aaron and have never left the aircraft without learning something, always in an inspiring manner. His skills and standards are at the highest level and his desire to impart knowledge is endless”.  When Flying NZ altered the Part 149 certificate it holds to clarify and maintain training standards, Aaron was quick to obtain use of the certificate for the club and for his certification to be a microlight flight instructor. He is the first B-cat instructor to hold this privilege under this certificate.

Under Aaron’s management the club has managed to re-establish the full engine overhaul provision and, for the first time in many years, is able to start setting long-term strategic goals backed by the financial ability to achieve them. The Club now employs additional instructors and has more aircraft. This year club pilots won several of the competitions at the recent Flying NZ National Championships, which is a testament to the standard, he trains to and insists upon.  The Club President writes; “He is self-aware and knows when he is outside his area of knowledge.  At that point he uses his network to generate strategies.  This is the mark of a good leader and pleasing to see in someone of Aaron’s age.”

In the future Aaron’s ambition is his A-cat instructors rating, and ultimately his GA Flight Examiner’s rating. Aaron is one of the old-style instructor/managers who is committed to a career in GA and has the selfless dedication, engaging personality and high skill level to make the GA community a better and safer place to operate.  It is essential for the GA industry to retain such motivated professionals.

In recognition of his many commendable achievements while less than 30 years of age, Aaron Pearce is deservedly awarded the Grand Master’s Medal.

Previous Winners:

1962/63 M P Glegg Esq

1963/64 D A Martin Esq

196465 T A Henderson Esq

1965/66 P G Hadgett Esq

196667 J W D Robertson Esq

196768 R J Barbour Esq

1968/69 A J E Tiley Esq

1969/70 C Redrupp Esq

1970/71 R G P Taylor Esq

1971/72 D Smethurst Esq

1972/73 G G Leask Esq

1973/74 J F Rothwell Esq

1974/75 G J Bressey Esq

1975/76 J F Nash Esq

1976/77 M J Thrower Esq


1992/93 M D W Bowker Esq

1993/94 R Ka Fuk Cheung Esq

1994/95 W S Gilmour Esq

1995/96 Jamal Jamal Mohammed Jamal

1996/97 Matthew J Clatworthy Esq

1997/98 Emma Joanne Phelps

1998/99 Captain W I E Anderson

1999/2000 Pilot Ofiicer J S Clayton

2000/01 Nicholas Chan

2001/02 Flight Lieutenant Nicola Thomas

2002/03 Daniel Fonseca MEng (Hons) GradRAeS

2003/04 Philip Gareth Donovan

2004/05 Peter Charles Edward Nye

2006 - 2010 Not awarded

2010/11 Isabelle de Montet-Guerin

            Captain Robert Shoenberg USAF

2012 - 2014 Not awarded

2014/15  Flight Lieutenant Christopher Gonzalez RAF 

2016  Flight Lieutenant Colin Bostrom MSc RAF

2017  Captain Matthew A Shipp USAF

2018  Captain Alexander Horrell USAF

2019  Aaron Keith Pearce