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2023 HDFC Awards Night recognises the achievements of pilots and club members

✦ The Hastings District Flying Club (HDFC) is where people who believe in your flying dreams have come together since 1958!

Imagine moving several planes out of a hangar and converting it into an awards and presentation stage to recognise the amazing achievements of both student and seasoned pilots for their outstanding flying.

That was what happened on Saturday, 25th November 2023 when Hastings District Flying Club (HDFC) organised their annual awards and presentation dinner. Here are some of the highlights from their presentations.

HDFC awards and presentation dinner 2023 was held in their hangar
HDFC awards and presentation dinner 2023 was held in their hangar

Tri Club Competition

HDFC hosted the Tri Club Competition between the Hastings District Flying Club (HDFC), Royal Newcastle Aero Club (RNAC) and Manning River Aero Club (MRAC) on 16th September at Taree Airport (TRE).

With perfect flying conditions, 33 pilots from the three clubs competed for the events:

  • River Bash

  • Steep Turns

  • Forced landing back onto TRE airfield

The club scores were 1st MRAC 198, 2nd HDFC 196 and 3rd RNAC 175 with HDFC taking second place!

HDFC awards - HDFC came in second at the Tri club competition | Brilliant-Online

First Solo Flight

A highly-coveted aviation goal, 12 pilots achieved their dreams and gained First Solo status, which is the first phase of their flying training syllabus. This is an exciting, challenging and memorable time for all pilots which will live long in their memory.

Upon gaining this status, students can now safely fly an aircraft by themselves and have successfully completed a series of emergency procedures in case they have a problem during their solo flight as well as completing the required exams.


1.Gary Warren 23.11.22

2. Nat Burgio 20.12.22

3. Dr Sandy McColl 25.1.23

4. Shanaya Brown 7.3.23

5. Daryl Grace 28.3.23

6. Max Batajev 11.5.23

7. George Worner 15.5.23

8. Jace Carmichael 14.8.23

9. Brendan Koivu 16.8 23

10. Lucas Bethencourt 22.9.23

11. Cameron Bullock 4.10.23

12. Max Pursehouse 14.11.23

Cameron Bullock was our cover story in our Brilliant October Issue. Read all about Cameron's first solo story here.

Pilot Certificate

11 students collected their hard earned wings after going through all of the flight training exercises, covering the full syllabus, early morning starts and navigating disappointing weather. They have passed challenging exams and completed their Pilot Certificate Flight Test and can now proudly call themselves pilots! Great job pilots!

1. Michael Day 6.12.22

2. John David 21.12.22

3. Praveen Rajuladevi 11.2.23

4. Piotr Zmijan 15.2.23

5. Ethan Unasa 11.3.23

6. Corneliu Tusnea 1.5.23

7. Ivo Smyly 23.5.23

8. Aarohi Deshmukh 10.6.23

9. Nirav Rajguru 10.6.23

10. Gary Warren 28.6.23

11. George Worner 28.9.23

Passenger Endorsement

This is an endorsement that gives pilots the incredible privilege of being able to take people up flying with total responsibility for safety, briefing and for giving them the amazing experience of an enjoyable flight over the local area. There are the 7 pilots who have gained passenger endorsement.

1. Steve Gooch 1.12.22

2. Jed Kirkman 23.12.22

3. Mike Wilkinson 4.2.23

4. Praveen Rajuladevi 9.3.23

5. Chaitanya Randive 3.6.23

6. Gary Warren 2.8.23

7. Piotr Żmijan 22.6.23

Cross Country Endorsement

3 students gained their Cross Country Endorsement (CCE) awards. This involves at least 12 hours of Cross Country Training, a challenging Nav/Met exam and a Flight Test with the CFI. This endorsement entitles the pilot to fly anywhere within Australia excluding controlled airspace.

1. Liam Ross 30.3.23

2. Ollie Taylor 12.7.23

3.Piotr Zmijan 25.8.23

We interviewed Ollie Taylor last year when he was awarded his flying scholarship from HDFC and we are so proud to celebrate his achievements here a year later. Read his story here.

Pilot Conversion

Pilots who already have a General Aviation licence but want to convert to flying LSA aircraft have to go through at least 5 hours of training, an exam and a challenging Flight Test.

Congratulations to Kirk Byrnes 23.12.22!

Flying Scholarship Winners

Since 1961, HDFC has been offering flying scholarships. Two scholarships were funded by HDFC and one from Matthew Baker, one of the earlier flying scholarship recipients who now fly with Cathay Pacific.

The three scholarship winners are Max Pursehouse, Bowen Hansen and Ben Tree. We wish them a brilliant start to their aviation dreams!

HDFC flying scholarship 2023 winners are Max Pursehouse, Bowen Hansen and Ben Tree | Brilliant-Online
HDFC flying scholarship 2023 winners are Max Pursehouse, Bowen Hansen and Ben Tree

Pilot Proficiency Day

Also known as HDFC's Monthly Flying Competition, PPDs are help every month as a cost effective way for all the pilots to keep their currency. On PPDs, the pilots practise emergency procedures such as Forced Landings. They are always up for a challenge with coordinated flying exercises such as River Bash up the Maria River at 600’ as well as Spot Landing exercises with and without the use of flaps.

By doing these exercises consistently, the pilots are kept very confident and proficient with their flying. Combined with mentoring guidance from either Bruce Dunlop or Ray Lind as air judges, pilots continue to improve their flying skills gaining currency, confidence, increase safety procedures and build comradeship.



PROFICIENCY PILOT for the YEAR receiving the Vern Polley Memorial Trophy: John Navin

HDFC Pilot of the Year winner John Navin | Brilliant-Online
The winner takes it all: John Navin

The Proficiency Pilot of the Year award is all about Safety, Airmanship and Performance. John Navin is consistently involved in PPDs and practises his flying regularly to perfect his skills. He even chooses to fly during the busiest times through the week when traffic is heavy just to push his limits and enhance his expertise. With an exceptional situational awareness and clear and correct radio work, John is a highly deserving recipient of this award.

Student Pilot of the Year 2023

Congratulations to Gary Warren! HDFC has seen a cohort of highly impressive students this year with their dedication and perseverance navigating early starts and problematic weather. Gary started training in June 2022 and achieved his first solo on 23 November 2022. He then gained his wings on 28 June 2023 and his Passenger Endorsement on 2 August 2023.

Gary has all the personal essentials required to succeed, including a deep passion, problem solving ability and patience. Keep flying high, Gary!

Club Person 2023 & Stirrer 2023

President Rod Davison gave the award for Club Person of the Year to Steve Gooch.

Steve Gooch was Stirrer of the Year in 2022 and passing on the stirrer spoon to John Navin.

HDFC awards - Steve Gooch (left) Club Person of the Year with John Navin, Stirrer of the Year | Brilliant-Online
Steve Gooch (left) Club Person of the Year with John Navin, Stirrer of the Year

HDFC is well-known in the community for their strong camaraderie. This is due to the range of social and flying activities which pilots, their families, friends and visiting pilots participate in. For the last 65 years, HDFC has grown from a humble little flying club to producing top-notch pilots.

Not forgetting Brilliant Acknowledgements to...

Kudos to HDFC's team of flying instructors Mike Bullock, Steve Smith, Bruce Dunlop, Rod Hall, David Massey, Ray Lind and Doug Toppazzini who joined this year.

HDFC also thanks their Engineers Doug Toppazzini and Jon Bown for doing a sterling job as outstanding engineers.

HDFC Committee has always been working hard behind the scenes to make this a safe and efficient flying school. Led by the exceptional Rod Davison as well as very clever marketing by Veronica Lind, HDFC is reaching out to the community and keeping everyone up to date with their regular Enews.

Just like a properly functioning plane, everyone has an important part to play in keeping HDFC growing strong and soaring. From committee members to volunteers and the community that has been so supportive and participative, HDFC is where it is today because of a communal effort!

Learn to Fly with the Hastings District Flying Club

incorporating Port Macquarie Flying School

115 Oliver Dr, Port Macquarie, NSW 2444

e/ (Ray Lind, Chief Flying Instructor)

t/ +612 6583 1695


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