The opening of this period saw great confidence with the ramp-up of University flying. This resulted in the Board, under the leadership of Bernie Sarroff, upgrading runway 23, sealing the car park, buying new aircraft including a new Piper Archer 3, and appointing Bill Hilder as General Manager.
2000 – Future
Contributed by: Rob Chenery
The increasing activity provided the confidence for the club increasing its debt to a record of just under $1.0m.
This was controversial at the time and lead to a contested election for the next presidency on the retirement of Bernie. The members elected Rob Chenery as the 8th Royal Newcastle Aero Club President to lead the Club through future challenges. Bernie was awarded the Oswald Watt Award from the Royal Federation of Aero Clubs. Russ Evans had been awarded an Honorary DSc from the University. Both Bernie and Russ Evans had been awarded OAM’s for their services to aviation. After 2½ years Rob Britten, was confirmed the next General Manager.
The period concentrated on increasing flying hours and reducing debt. Profitability remained problematic but significant gains were made in improving the professionalism of office, flight training, and governance systems as well as concentrating management through a general manager rather than director portfolios.
The University of Newcastle’s decision to withdraw the Aviation Degree course after the 2002 intake combined with a downturn in general aviation have been key factors to challenge the Club’s future. During 2003 – 2004 club activities to further the objectives of the club included the ALAC’s, RFACA Dinner, and the Great Tiger Race.
They were in addition to the usual Pilot’s Dinner and Wings Night and all were a credit to the fulfillment of club objectives. A lot of good publicity was generated but they unfortunately did not increase general flying.
During that period, long term plans pursued the development of more hangars, an Industrial Land Development, and a Community Agreement defining operations at Russell Field in line with community expectations and Australian Standard noise contour limits.
By April 2004 it was obvious that the club needed to scale back overheads to a situation recognising that the lack of cash flow from university student intakes. This was done and Peter Meguyer was appointed General Manager / CFI in April 2004.