Bianca Barbarich-Bacher is a high achiever by anyone’s standards.
At just 26 years old she has competed in 11 sailing world championships and a pre-Olympics event (gaining three world titles), completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering, become a pilot for Mount Cook Airline and has now been awarded the inaugural Young Aviation Professional Award by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The award was presented at the Aviation New Zealand conference last month by CAA Chairman Nigel Gould.
“For all three of our ﬁnalists, safety is not an afterthought or a tick-box exercise, but rather the essential underpinning of modern aviation – and their actions demonstrate a profound commitment to keeping New Zealanders safe,” said Gould before announcing Bianca the overall winner.
The award replaces the CAA Director’s awards and is for individuals aged between 18-30 years driving safety performance, developing a safety culture, or leading safety initiatives. They had to have made an outstanding contribution to aviation safety in the past 12 months.
Bianca grew up in an aviation family – her father Michael a gliding enthusiast while her mother, the late Ann Barbarich, was a pilot for 27 years and one of the ﬁrst women to ﬂy for Air New Zealand. Bianca started ﬂying at the Walsh Memorial Scout Flying School in 2011, ﬂying her ﬁrst solo there at 18 years old. She was followed there some years later by her younger brother Alex. They were the ﬁrst siblings to both win the overall Walsh Award as ﬁrst year students. Alex went on to gain his private pilot licence (PPL) earlier this year and intends to follow in his sister’s footsteps to study engineering.
“I absolutely loved it and from that point on there was no going back,” says Bianca. Her newfound passion for aviation and the support of her family ultimately inspired her to make it her career.
The following year she gained her PPL while studying engineering at the University of Auckland. During university holidays she worked as an aeronautical engineering intern at Air New Zealand, in both technical operations and ﬂight operations.
Bianca went on to complete her commercial pilot licence, multi engine instrument rating and B Category instructor rating after ﬁnishing her degree. She instructed at the Marlborough Aero Club and worked as a line pilot for Blenheim based RidgeAir, where she ﬂew their Piper Seneca and Cessna 402 aircraft.
Bianca believes that while it’s important that leaders of an organisation promote a safety culture, ultimately the test is in whether staﬀ at all levels are engaged and truly buy in to the concept.
“A safety culture in aviation is often described as how an organisation behaves when nobody is watching, and for this reason, it needs to be established from the ground up,” she says.
Her involvement in safety related projects started with the Performance Based Navigation (PBN) certification RidgeAir went through for their Piper Seneca. The opportunity to tour New Zealand visiting other Part 135 operators provided a platform to answer questions and promote the beneﬁts to those working through the process themselves. From there she moved on to developing the Safety Management System (SMS) for RidgeAir alongside Chief Pilot Ross McCullum.
Ross subsequently nominated her for the Young Aviation Professional Award.
With experience gained from her engineering background and her involvement in safety policy, Bianca then developed the Marlborough Aero Club’s Standard Operating Procedures and safety reporting system - a more formalised and eﬀective tool that replaced the original forms used to record events.
The next step in her career was the move to Mount Cook Airline, where she started in June this year as a First Officer on the ATR72-600.
She was in Brisbane doing her ﬁnal check ﬂight in the simulator for her ATR type rating when she learned that she had been awarded the Young Aviation Professional Award. Her mentor and friend Susan MacLachlan, Pilot Manager at Mount Cook Airline, stood in for her at the awards function and Bianca was later able to accept the award in person on her return to New Zealand.
“I felt very honoured to be considered as a ﬁnalist among such high calibre nominees and it was so special to win the inaugural award,” Bianca says.
Bianca is thrilled to be starting her airline career with Mount Cook and has enjoyed her training so far, saying “the instructors have been excellent and everyone is so supportive.”
The Walsh Memorial Scout Flying School still holds a special place in her heart, and she enjoys returning there as often as she can to instruct and no doubt inspire the next generation of aviators.
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