Published date: 9 August 2019

Media release

Marlborough’s Bianca Barbarich-Bacher has come a long way since her first solo flight at age 18 in 2011.

Bianca’s dedication to safety in the industry has earned her the inaugural 2019 Young Aviation Professional Award, presented by the Civil Aviation Authority Chair Nigel Gould on August 6.

At the Aviation New Zealand conference where the award was presented, Mr Gould commended the calibre of the finalists, and said the judging panel had a difficult task choosing the winner of the award.

“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.”

The award, which replaces the Director’s awards, is for individuals aged between 18-30 years driving safety performance, developing a safety culture, or leading safety initiatives. In the past 12 months, they must have made an outstanding contribution to aviation safety.

Bianca, who is the First Officer at Mount Cook Airline has, among other things, developed the Marlborough Aero Club Safety Reporting System, which is a more formalised and effective tool replacing the original forms to record events.

The most important part of the system is that it demands that action post-event is considered, scheduled and completed, which is a more proactive approach to a safety culture.

Bianca believes that a safety culture begins with being unafraid to ask about existing procedures or the status quo and the reasons behind it.

“Figuring out why someone is operating in a particular way by exploring the reason for an action like safety or efficiency is important. By doing that, you are able to bring to question whether it is perceived safety or simply a habit that has developed over time.”

Bianca’s mum, the late Ann Barbarich, was a pioneer in the aviation industry, being one of the first female pilots to work for Air New Zealand and serving 27 years with the airline.

Eight nominations were received, from which three finalists were chosen. The finalists are as follows:

This award was open to any young aviation professional (18-30 years) in the early stages of their career, either employed or self-employed.

Bianca Barbarich-Bacher, First Officer, Mount Cook Airline (previously RidgeAir & Marlborough Aero Club) Josh Haslemore, Chairman Auckland Air Patrol, Coastguard Northern Region Jack Scott, CEO, NZ Drones

Read more information about the awards

For media comment:
Mike Richards
Manager Communications and Safety Promotion
+64 27 763 0000 or email