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Iain Whitson named finalist: Australian Aviation Awards Rotary Pilot of the Year

Congratulations to Australian Aviation Awards Rotary Pilot of the Year finalist, Iain Whitson.

In November 2021 Australians watched as a family of four were rescued via helicopter after spending five days stranded in the Simpson Dessert.

Following their campervan becoming bogged on the remote Oodnadatta Track after sudden, heavy rains, the family activated an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) device. Stranded more than 1,150 kilometres northwest of Adelaide, the family would have had to wait for as long as two weeks for an overland rescue as South Australian Police waited for flooded roads to clear.

On 16 November, Iain, a Babcock aircrew officer, a Babcock engineer and a South Australia Ambulance paramedic, departed Babcock’s Adelaide Base to rescue the family.

One of only 13 Line Pilots in South Australia qualified to perform the rescue, Iain holds skills that are applicable for any rescue situation, no matter the location, type of rescue, or task.

Speaking about the dramatic rescue, which made headlines around the world, Iain was humble and credited his team for the effort involved.

“We conducted extensive planning the day prior and that night on base, as we’re trained and employed to fly as single pilots with the support of a crewman. It is vital that plans are created within a couple of hours for to ensure we can be ready to go within 10 minutes of notification.” he said.

“Without the emergency helicopter assets, there is a risk that rescues will take much longer and can delay any required medical treatment.”

Through the course of his doing his job, Iain has now gained recognition for his service and has been named a finalist in the Rotary Pilot of the Year category of the inaugural Australian Aviation Awards.

“I’m proud of my role, conducting missions with a purpose. This rescue had the potential to be quite complicated if we faced fuel issues or potential mechanical issues, but I’m pleased that we were able to get the family back to Adelaide safely,” Iain said.

A Helicopter Line Pilot with Babcock since 2017, Iain’s previous career had lasted 17 years in the Australian Defence Force where he had flown for the first Aviation Regiment and trained personnel to become Tiger pilots.

“Personally, I find the flying that I do now much more satisfying, because every job is for a purpose,” Iain said.

On top of the regular training requirements at Babcock, Iain regularly facilitates piloting training missions for specialist aeromedical crewmen and for emergency services, law enforcement and government agencies personnel to do their jobs safely. This includes South Australian Ambulance Service (SAAS) Rescue Paramedics, Medstar Retrieval Nurses and Doctors, South Australian Police (SAPOL) Tactical Flight Officers and Special Task and Rescue Group (STAR) members.

“These people are all highly trained and capable at what they do. My role is to help with the additional emergency and survival training for them to safely conduct airborne operations to ensure safe, effective and efficient services to the community,” Iain said.

Babcock is proud to congratulate Iain for his outstanding service and this industry recognition, and wish him and his fellow finalists all the best on the awards night in September 2022.

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