The Ballooning Championships Committee has five members, and reports directly to the Northam Aero Club (NAC). In addition, there is a talented group of volunteers who have been co-opted to the Team, to undertake specific organisational tasks.
The Competition Operations Team will conduct the Ballooning Championship event.


Committee Chairman and Operations Manager: Gren Putland
A Committee and Life Member of the NAC, Gren holds a fixed wing Pilot licence, and Airship and Commercial Balloon Pilot licence with Examiner status. He held altitude records for small balloons and has officiated at balloon events both in Australia and overseas. Gren placed 8th in the 1983 World Balloon Championships in Nantes France. He and family have a small farm to the east of Northam.

Committee Member and Media Co-Ordinator: Donna Tasker
A Committee Member of the NAC, Donna holds a fixed wing Pilot licence, and Australian and British Commercial Balloon Pilot licences. In addition to flying balloon passengers in Northam, Donna has flown for two seasons in Myanmar. She has flown in various ballooning events in the UK and Malaysia, and attended the 2013 Saga International Balloon Fiesta as an Official. She is the ABF Western Australian Representative.

Committee Member: President of WABAC: Michael Clements
Mick is a long term Northam resident, and is a second generation ballooning family. Mick holds a fixed wing Pilot licence, and Balloon Pilot licence. He is the President of the WA Balloon and Airship Club, and a member of the NAC. He has and his family live on a small farm located near the Northam Airfield.

Committee Member: President of Northam Aero Club: Errol Croft
Errol joined the Northam Aero Club in 1993 and has previously held various positions in the Club including Club Captain and Vice President. He gained his Pilot Licence in 1994 and now has several ratings. He owns a Cessna C172, VH-JXI. He is the owner/operator of a refrigeration and earthwork business in Goomalling, near Northam.

Committee Member and Community Liaison: Michelle Blackhurst
Michelle has an interest in aviation and completed 5 years in the Air Training Corps where she participated in leadership courses at RAAF Base Pearce and experienced flights in many of the different aircraft visiting the base. She is an avid photographer. Michelle is a long term Northam resident with a passion for her community. She is the Community Development Officer at the Shire of Northam and has two small businesses operating in Northam.

Shire of Northam Liaison: Ross Rayson, Executive Manager Community Services, Shire of Northam
Airfield Logistics: Matt Bignell
Assistant to the Chairman: Margaret Putland
Financial: Belinda Clements
Website: Claude Meunier
Social Media: Sally Wood
Event Volunteer Co-ordinators: Sharon Bray, Alison Fox
Visitor Information: Victoria Williams (Shire of Northam Visitor Centre Manager)
Risk Management: Wayne Monger
Special Projects: June Bairstow

Financial Advisor: Damien Hays
Event Management Advisor: Honor Putland

PR Consultant: Janine Pittaway, Bright Communications

The Operations Team for the National Ballooning Championships, Northam, 2017 will be proposed and endorsed by the ABF, as part of the bid process. The team members are well experienced in both National and International Competition, and conducted the Event in Northam in 2015. All have been at the forefront of International competition development.

Director: Gary Lacey
Gary is Canberra based and works in the field of pharmaceutical research. He is both a private and commercial balloon pilot, operating mainly in the ACT. He has been seconded to numerous International Events to oversee debriefing procedures, and has been the Director of recent Australian National Championships. Gary leads his well qualified operation team to conduct the Event.

Deputy Director: Garry Lockyer
"The Canadian". Garry is a computer and IT expert. Having retired from his favourite sport of ice hockey, he now concentrates on his other passion of balloon flying. He is the Canadian representative on the CIA (Committeé Internationale d'Aérostation) and has been most active in the development of the International Sporting Code standards. Garry has officiated at events worldwide, including at various Australian events, including previous National Championships.

Chief Scorer: Steve Ireland
Steve is both a private and commercial balloon pilot. He is the Australian CIA (Committee International d Aerostation) representative and has officiated at numerous National and International Events, including World Championships. He flies balloons in Canberra including the famous Sky Whale.

Assistant Scorer: Rhonda Pritchard
Rhonda’s first contact with ballooning was in England in 1980. Her first balloon event attended in an official capacity was Mildura, SA in 1996. She has become more involved recently, assisting the Scorer at the 2014 and 2015 Canowindra Balloon Challenge, NSW, the Australian National’s in Northam in 2015 and the pre-world’s in Saga, Japan in 2015.

Safety Officer: John Wallington
John is a pilot of extraordinary achievements. He has been Australian Champion and holder of significant ballooning records. His skills were put to use in the first across Australia flight with Dick Smith. John has managed ballooning interests throughout Australia and overseas. He has been intimately involved in the annual Canberra Balloon Fiesta, and will be a key official at the World Championships in Saga Japan, 2017.

Meteorologist: Don Whitford
Don is an eminent Meteorologist with specific interest in sports aviation. He has been met advisor to varied air sports at the National level for 20 years, with a focus on ballooning. In real life Don often works with the Australian Military. He has recently become re-acquainted with Northam weather, during a period as meteorologist at Pearce Air Base.

Competition Opns Admin /Night Glow Co-ordinator: Ruth E Wilson
Since 1975 Ruth has been actively involved in all aspects of both international and national ballooning including World Championships. She holds a World First in Aviation, a night parachute jump from her balloon and was awarded the Australian Women’s Pilots Trophy for long distance gas ballooning while representing Australia in the prestigious Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race.


Jury President: Hiromori Soejima (Hiropon) Saga, Japan.
Vice President of the Japanese Balloon Federation, Event Director at Japanese National Championships, Honda Grand Prix Series & Mongolia International Balloon Festival. Deputy Director at World Hot Air Balloon Championships (Saga), Saga International Balloon Fiesta, amp; Tochigi International Balloon Championships. Hiropon has competed at the Japanese National Championship a few times, but says he realized that he’s not good as Yudai, Matt or Nicola!

Juror: Adrian Clements, Northam WA.
Past President of the Australian Ballooning Federation (ABF) amp; WA Balloon amp; Airship Club; Life Member of the ABF, amp; of the Northam Aero Club. Previous World Record Co-Pilot with Geoff Green, with a world distance flight in 1980 from Northam to Zanthus, on the Nullabor. Adrian is a partner in Grenade Ballooning, who brought the first balloon, Rainbow Lady, to reside in Northam.

Team Leaders: Ian Benning, Carol Benning
Team Members: Griffin Putland, Tonya Gentry, Alison Fox, Sharon Bray, Peter Scott.

Farmer Liaison Group:
WABAC: Michael Clements,
Southern District: Brendan Parker,
Grass Valley: Gerard Sermon

Information and Souvenirs Marquee:
Lena Hinsley, Rae Mohi

Traffic Management:
Ken Blackhurst,
Andrew and Simon Wooding
Carrington Traffic Management

Local Area Mentor Pilots:
Ryan Bristow-Stagg
Marc Bristow-Stagg


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Latest update :August 21, 2017.