Wally Epton, distinguished aviator, receives BBGA’s outstanding contribution to aviation award

Friday 8th March 2024

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  • Wally Epton, distinguished aviator, receives BBGA’s outstanding contribution to aviation award
Wally Epton, who has contributed six decades of exemplary service to the aviation industry in civil and defence roles, is this year’s recipient of the British Business and General Aviation Association’s prestigious Michael Wheatley Award for Outstanding Services to the general aviation industry. BBGA Chair Aoife O’Sullivan presented him with the accolade at the Association’s annual conference and AGM on 7th March at London’s Leonardo Hotel, St Paul’s, to an audience of 140 plus industry peers. 
Wally’s  illustrious career started in 1958 as a Royal Air Force aircraft apprentice at RAF Halton.  He  completed his flying training as an officer cadet at RAF College Cranwell, a precursor to piloting Strike/Ground Attack B-15 Canberras, C-130 tactical transport aircraft and HS-125 Dominie navigation trainers.  Wally was proud to be a display pilot with the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) flying Spitfires and Hurricanes.  He retired from the RAF in 1978 as a Squadron Leader but continued as an active display pilot before moving to Australia in 1981, initially for Shell.  While in Australia he set up a business aviation association there.          
After nearly 10 years in Australia he returned to the UK.  He flew business jets for 33 years, for companies including Coles Myer and Readymix Concrete on the Hawker 125.  Operator companies included Gama Aviation.  Latterly, he flew Hawker 4000 and Challenger CL-604 series for private clients.  Flying on UK, EASA and FAA ATP’s he accumulated 16,400 flight hours commercially.   Today, he still owns and flies at Tiger Moth.
Wally holds Master Air Pilot Certificate No 892
Wally serves as Chairman of the Historic Aircraft Association (HAA).  He is Chair of RAE Farnborough Aero Club; sits on the Aerodrome Consultative Committee for Farnborough Airport and is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.   Previously, he was leader of the HAA Engineering Group and the HAA Self-Administration Project Working Group.  As a Liveryman of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots, having served as Master in 2011, he was granted Freedom of The City of London.  He  and holds a Master Air Pilot Certificate No 892.  He continues to fly a Tiger Moth.
Industry friends’ testimonials
“During his time in Australia, Wally flew Shell Australia’s HS-125, spearheading business aviation’s growth and supporting the resources boom across an expansive continent.  Shell Australia’s flight department, an offshoot of Shell Aircraft UK, established by the legendary Douglas Bader, raised the standards and professionalism of business aviation in Australia, thanks to Wally.   Today, many years later, Shell Aircraft continues to draw on his contributions through his work within BBGA and the business aviation industry.” 
Stan Medved, Director Corporate Aviation, Shell Aircraft
“Wally was part of the Gama Aviation Hawker pilot team in the early 2000s, flying the HS125-800 and 1000 series on both AOC and managed fleets. He was a great charter pilot with a fantastic ‘can do’ attitude, delivered with integrity, calmness, and professionalism - a perfect match for our clients' exacting requirements. Wally’s experience and knowledge of this aircraft type is unsurpassed.   On leaving Gama Aviation, Wally became a revered ambassador for aviation and for this sector through his six years as Chair of the BBGA Operations Working Group. He provided me with solid foundations to grow the BBGA’s Operations Working Group.  I am proud to follow in his footsteps.” 
Paul Cremer, Head of Aviation Delivery at the Gama Aviation Group
“I’m delighted to hear of Wally’s prize of this year’s Michael Wheatley Award.  Having known and been inspired by both great gentlemen it’s a fitting tribute to Wally’s continuing career dedicated to aviation, business aviation especially, and his general enthusiasm for the whole sector.  I first met Wally in 2001, a punchy Hawker Captain/sometime Racing Dad, then looking for a sponsor for his son’s car racing career.  What ensued was my trawling the length and breadth of the country watching his son David battle it out with a very young Lewis Hamilton.  It was and remains a very happy memory!   Moving forward, Wally has been responsible for my renewing my PPL, becoming a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, which I now run, and becoming a Freeman of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots.  In each role, I try to replicate what he’s done throughout his career, doing my best to inspire the next generation to follow us into this great industry.  I know this isn’t a Lifetime Achievement award as he’s far from done.   I’m sure he’ll remain at the heart of our sector for many years to come – phoning me only last month about another idea he’s had - that I must work on!   Well done Wally, it’s the recognition you thoroughly deserve.”   
Dave Edwards, Chief Executive, The Royal Aeronautical Society
About Michael Wheatley
Michael Wheatley held a leading role in the support advisory services to the UK Police and ambulance authorities and leading financial institutions.  He died in 2006 and BBGA created the award in his name.  Recent previous recipients include Marwan Khalek, Patrick Margetson-Rushmore, Tom Perry, Tim Scorer, Penny Stephens, Phil Lammiman, Brian Humphries and Andrew Walters.
About BBGA
BBGA is the UK’s national trade body representing business and general aviation.  Formerly known as GAMTA and founded in 1970, its member companies span all facets of the business aviation sector.  BBGA represents nearly 200 companies, including airports, corporate flight departments, operators, aviation services organisations and aircraft manufacturers.  In a partnership with EBAA, all members of BBGA enjoy dual membership of both associations.  Similarly, any UK based organisation seeking to join EBAA can do so via BBGA.
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