australian aviation logo

Ex-RAAF chief joins board of troubled air traffic control

written by Adam Thorn | August 7, 2023

Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld at a ceremony to mark a transfer of the RAAF to Air Marshal Robert Chipman (Defence)

A former head of the RAAF has been appointed to the board of troubled air traffic control provider Airservices Australia.

Mel Hupfeld worked as a fighter pilot before rising to become Air Marshall and his storied career includes being awarded a Distinguished Service Cross in recognition of his performance as Commanding Officer during the Iraq War.

His four-year term was announced just days after Airservices CEO Jason Harfield admitted his organisation is not delivering the standard of service expected following a row over closed airspace.

Transport Minister Catherine King said the appointment recognises his extensive experience in complex information systems and as a military and civilian pilot.

“His depth of connections within the Department of Defence and broader government will greatly assist Airservices’ delivery of its strategic change program, including the OneSKY partnership with Defence,” she said.


Australian Aviation reported last year how Hupfeld transferred command of the RAAF to his replacement, Air Marshal Robert Chipman, at a ceremony in Canberra. The event, at Air Force Headquarters, included a parade and flypast from three F/A-18F Super Hornets.

“When I commenced my role as Chief of Air Force, we were in a period of great capability transition — we were bringing on some of the very first F-35A Lightning II jets and EA-18G Growler and P-8A Poseidon aircraft,” AIRMSHL Hupfeld said.

“I am most proud of our dedicated and skilled workforce who are trusted to deliver air and space power for the Joint Force, wherever it’s needed. Our people are, and continue to be, at the heart of our capability.”

He added leading the RAAF during its centenary commemorations was the peak of his career.

“We were able to honour the service and sacrifice of more than 350,000 past and present members, and inspire future aviators. I have no doubt that Air Marshal Chipman will continue to shape and lead our capable and modern Air Force.”

His appointment comes at a difficult time for Airservices, which is embroiled in a row over whether or not it has employees following hundreds of occasions over the last year where it has effectively shut down a significant portion of airspace.

Airservices had previously said it has 100 more air traffic controllers than it requires to operate Australia’s network and said the shutdowns were a result of a “short-term” and “unplanned” leave of controllers.

However, Qantas has said staff shortages at Airservices have had a “significant impact” on its reliability, while both air traffic control union Civil Air and the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) have also insisted there is a staffing problem.

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member today!

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.