A Bathurst flying school has been recognised at a national level after securing one of the industry's most prestigious awards.
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WardAir was named the CASA Wings 2021 Flight Training Organisation of the Year and owner Catherine Fitzsimons was chuffed to be acknowledged at such a high level.
The awards are run by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and are open to aero clubs and flying schools across the country.
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Competing against some big city-based flying schools, Ms Fitzsimons was honoured to receive the award.
"It's really exciting because it's a national award," she said.
"We're very chuffed that a small regional flying school with quite a specific regional focus has carried off this award."
While most of the flying schools in metropolitan areas focus on training pilots for big airlines, WardAir has more of a niche market.
Being a regional flying school, a lot of the training focus is on outback air travel.
Learning to fly can be a big help to rurally-based professionals who need to travel to clients around the Western region.
Ms Fitzsimons said she has Bathurst doctors and lawyers who own their own planes and went through WardAir for their training.
"Our niche has always been a mixture of helping people who need to fly and want to learn to fly out in the regional and rural areas," she said.
"Either because flying is their means of transport from their cattle station to town, or because they're a doctor or a lawyer or a business person here in Bathurst, Dubbo, Orange or Mudgee with lots of clients out in the west and they need to travel."
For people living remotely who can't visit a city often enough to secure a pilot licence, WardAir runs a program where the instructors visit clients at their properties for a few weeks and teach them to fly.
Ms Fitzsimons took on WardAir seven years ago and has enjoyed taking on new instructors and giving community members their wings.
The flying school believes in exposing their students to as many different situations as possible so they're confident up in the air.
"The whole point of having a licence is to get out, but a lot of people are a little timid by the idea of going outback," Ms Fitzsimons said.
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"So we run training tours, we take six to eight aircrafts at a time with private pilots in them, or some of our students or friends.
"We fly out to Uluru, Cape York or across the Nullarbor and teach people to fly or do refresher training along the way, all while seeing great things and having a wonderful experience."
Ms Fitzsimons said she loves being part of the Bathurst community and hopes WardAir continues to grow and encourage new community members to the world of aviation.
Most of the WardAir team have grown up in Bathurst or live in the community, giving them a vested interest in the area.
Ms Fitzsimons said it's important to have instructors and pilots who are local people teaching local people.
"We feel very strongly that we're a community business and we'd like to grow and develop with the Central West and with Bathurst," she said.
"We're very grateful for the support we receive from the aero club and from the community here in Bathurst and we'd like to see that continue.
"We'd like to help more and more people access both the business and the personal benefits of being able to get around the state and the country with a pilot licence."
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