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RAAF revolution as airmen to be known as aviators

written by Adam Thorn | April 8, 2021

Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, AO, DSC at Hosking House in Canberra (Defence)

The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, made an announcement at RAAF’s centenary dinner on 31 March that can finally be made public.

From now on, the Air Force will replace the term ‘airmen’ with ‘aviators’ to mark its transition into its second 100 years.

“Of all the work that has been done in developing our Air Force culture, the most challenging dilemma has been fully explaining who we are,” AIRMSHL Hupfeld said.

“We understand well enough what we are and what we do – but have never quite managed to successfully articulate who we are. We are all aviators.

“As an Air Force, we are born of the air and space. It is our home, and the place from which we serve our nation. Our trade is aviation.

“In everything that we do, we are aviators first and foremost. All of us, by virtue of what we do and what we believe. It is what binds us together.”

He added that the public shouldn’t confuse the role of pilots with all of the Air Force’s common purpose, “to think, act and imagine from the perspective of the skies and space above us”.


Last week, RAAF celebrated its centenary with an ambitious flypast over Canberra that featured 60 warbirds and modern aircraft such as the Spitfire, Caribou, C-130J and F/A-18 Hornet.

AIRMSHL Hupfeld spoke then about the Air Force’s evolution from basic biplanes to boasting a fleet characterised by high-tech capabilities including space and cyber.

“In our first 100 years, in conflict, peacekeeping, search and rescue, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, Air Force developed a reputation within our nation and among our global partners for courage, perseverance and overcoming adversity. We consistently deliver air power well above the weight of an air force our size,” he said.

“More than 350,000 Australians have served in Air Force since 1921 and 11,191 have died in service during that time — we will always remember their service and sacrifice.

“Today, Air Force works with Navy, Army, Defence civilians, other government departments, defence industry and our international partners. These relationships have always been important for our success and will be crucial as we face the strategic challenges of an increasingly complex and competitive environment.

“As we commence our second century, it is our duty to preserve our proud legacy and to maintain our enduring commitment to supporting Australia.”

On 31 March 100 years ago, the Australian Air Force was formed, and five months later, its Royal designation was added to create the Royal Australian Air Force.

It was only the second “Royal” air arm in the British Commonwealth, following the formation of the RAF.

To celebrate, Australian Aviation released a special RAAF 100 In Focus digital edition to mark the big occasion.

It features an exclusive interview with the AIRMSHL Hupfeld; an introduction from Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price; as well as some of the best features from Australian Aviation’s history, examining the inner workings of the RAAF.

Click this link to subscribe and read.

Comments (8)

  • This must surely be some kind of joke, or have our Air Force leaders “lost the plot”? An aviator is someone who flies, not a cook, clerk, paper shuffler or Air Force medical staff. All the support jobs in the RAAF are important, but they are NOT aviators, simply because they do not fly. This silly decision needs to be revisited!

  • Warwick


    This is yet another example of the idiotic PC’ism that’s taking over the world.
    Never thought our RAAF would stoop to such low standards!

    Allan, above, is 100% correct, in saying an ‘aviator’ FLIES a plane! That’s what its’ derivation means.
    Gross stupidity to the nth degree.

  • Evan


    Agree with Pickering. Hupfeld’s blatherings are ScoMo at his best. ‘Aviators’ are flyers. The term ‘airman’ used to mean that too, but was obviously borrowed as a generic one designed to cover a raft of Air Force roles, including the corporate. If there’s a problem with the gender implications, they should think a little deeper. This is simplistic stupidity!

  • RJW Shannon


    What utter blathering, arrant, nonsense!! Aviators work in a cockpit with a control column, instruments and throttle. Aviators FLY aeroplanes. Other trades support that flying effort in various ways, but no way, even in semantic hell, are they ‘aviators’, too. I’m an Ex-radiotech and I would never countenance being termed an’aviator’…I can’t fly an aeroplane! Just another instance of misplaced Political Correctness in this namby-pamby nanny-state we are now forced to live in. I never even voted Labour!! (They were the ones who started this PC rubbish in order to garner votes from the minorities because they couldn’t get into power any other way in 1974 [?}. A lot of people alive today have never heard of that shameful business, though.)

  • TailEndCharlie


    On a commercial airliner, the Pilot Flying is the Aviator.
    In the passenger cabin, the Chief Purser is not an aviator.

    The only person QUALIFIED to be called an Aviator, is an aircraft Pilot, no one else.
    Back in the day, when there was just a few women flying ‘planes, they were called ‘an Aviatrix’.

  • Fred


    That is a stupid a calling a chairman a chair (men and women have 2 legs, chairs have 4) and a Police Force a Police Service. Once again it seems like we have the wrong people at the top.

  • Neale Horrocks


    For about 25 years I was an “airman”. What a lot of rot to change – Aviator means a pilot – not a fire truck driver or a forklift driver., or a storeman or clerk. If they have a gender problem, and I’m sure that they don’t among the serving airmen and women, go and look for someother title. ERKS used to be the name we all understood.
    Neale Horrocks

  • micheal halse


    How stupid. PC at its worst. I heard a retired US Army soldier refer jokingly to the USAF chairforce recently because they changed fitness tests from running to walking! Another US PC was dropping term ‘master bedroom’ to ‘primary bedroom’ because, you know its slaveish! Then anotherUS govt change under Biden is to drop term “mothet” and refer to them as ‘birthing person’!

    I thought Australia was above such stupidy. If the CAS wanted to honour the foundation of the RAAF he should have kept Point Cook. Army retained Duntroon. Why did past CASs rollover and selloff our heritage. I was an AC who made CPL and WGCDR and proud of each rank. And I was not a pilot or aviator for 30 years!

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