Meet the GFA Operations Department

Chair, Operations Panel


Drew McKinnie started gliding in 1970 at Woomera, has flown over 1300 hours gliding and approaching 500 power hours.  He has flown 26 types and enjoys flying his ASW20L sailplane GVN "Goes Very Nicely".  He is also often seen towing gliders in the club PA-25 Pawnee. He has been a member of Canberra Gliding Club since 1983, served on Committee in several roles including President, and was CFI for 12 years.  He is not a competition pilot, and enjoys cross-country and wave soaring, with a keen interest in soaring meteorology. A Level 3 instructor since 1999, Drew joined the Gliding Federation of Australia (GFA) Operations Panel in 2012 and is the current Chair of Operations Panel. He has risk management, safety management, accident investigation and training systems expertise and experience, and is keen to pursue improvements in GFA occurrence analysis, training methods and processes including instructor training and pilot education. A career Naval officer and weapons electrical engineer, he completed full time service in 2009 and continues to serve as a RAN Reserve Commodore as technical member of the RAN Seaworthiness Board.  He is also an adept negotiation strategist, trainer and consultant, specialising in strategic negotiation preparations and stakeholder engagement, for both public and commercial enterprises. 

Executive Manager, Operations


Christopher Thorpe started gliding in 1978 at Bacchus Marsh and has accumulated in excess of 2,700 hours soaring over more than 3,200 flights in 42 types of sailplane. He has extensive experience in gliding operations, having been the Chief Flying Instructor of the Beaufort Gliding Club for 20 years (1995 to 2015), a member of the Gliding Federation of Australia (GFA) Operations Panel since 2006 and Head of GFA Operations from 2011 to 2013. He is a regular competitor in State and Regional competitions and has placed first in his class in National, State and Regional championships. He has risk management, safety management, accident investigation expertise and experience, and is the person responsible to CASA for the GFA’s safety, compliance and standards functions. He also holds Airworthiness authorities including the conduct of annual inspections. Prior to taking up the position of Executive Manager Operations with the GFA in August 2013, he was employed for 38 years by a major Australian Bank, in which he held a senior risk management position dealing with legal and professional bodies. Mr Thorpe is a Fellow of the Financial Services Institute of Australasia, a Freeman in the Honourable Company of Air Pilots, and a qualified Lead Auditor. 

Regional Manager, Operations (NSW/ACT)


Patrick Barfield started gliding in 1977 and soon afterwards was fortunate enough to be paid to fly fast jets for the next 25 years. Patrick continued to glide throughout his RAAF career, experiencing memorable wave flights over the Sierra Nevadas, ridge soaring in Yorkshire UK, thermalling in ‘bigger’ Texan thermals and surfing the Morning Glory. Following a subsequent career as a Defence Contractor, Patrick has semi-retired to become an active instructor with the Australian Air Force Cadets, is CFI of RAAF Williamtown Gliding Club, flies his Valentin Taifun touring motorglider, occasionally flies towplanes, flies his floating hull Super Petrel for some variety and in his spare time has assumed the role of Regional Manager Operations for NSW.

Regional Manager, Operations (Qld)


Ivor Harris gained a private pilot licence in 1970 courtesy of an Air Training Corps flying scholarship, and subsequently commenced gliding at Warwick in 1972. He has been instructing and towing since 1974, and has been at different times CFI/instructor panel chairman and/or club president of Warwick Gliding Club, Canberra Gliding Club, and the Queensland AAFC gliding club. He is a keen cross country pilot and owned a share in an IS29 for many years, and now a share in an LS1f (and also a beautiful Victa Airtourer, the very aircraft in which he first flew solo in 1970). He has been a level 3 gliding instructor since 2003. During a mixed career, he has been a veterinarian, microbiologist, a malaria scientist as a regular army scientific officer, and spent 4 years in Antarctica as a station leader. He retired from the regular army in 2014 and is still serving in the army reserve. Ivor is currently working towards a commercial pilot licence as a “retirement project” in order to become a better pilot. His retirement goal is “do more flying”!

Regional Manager, Operations (SA/NT)


Tom Leech had his first glider flight on his 13th birthday and was hooked straight away. It just took a few years for him to get around to following his dream of flying. In 1993 at the age of 29 he went solo in Gliding before having a break only to shift to GA in 2000 then returning to gliding in 2006. He also has his RA-Aus Pilot License. Tom just loves all forms of aviation. He enjoyed a steady climb through the ranks to gain his Level 3 Instructor status in 2015. Tom has also held many officer positions over the years at The Adelaide Soaring Club including a stint as the President. He is currently employed on a part time basis by the Adelaide Soaring Club as the General Airfield Manager. Prior to this Tom spent his life as a full time Musician, Music Producer and owned multiple Music Business’s and still continues to teach Singing from his home in Adelaide today.

Regional Manager, Operations (Vic/Tas)


Alan payne

Regional Manager, Operations (WA)


Alan Gartland started gliding in 1974 at Beverley, WA, has over 2,100 hours gliding and has flown 30 types. He has flown and played an active role in Beverley Soaring Society (BSS) since 1974 with a small break in the 80’s. He travelled to Germany to work with Schempp-Hirth in 1979 on glider repair. On returning to Australia he became a LAME at Essendon, working on Nomads and Shrikes. He and his wife returned to WA in 1983 to set up a glider repair business but switched to accountancy instead. He later moved into computer programming and is a business intelligence analyst with a division of Wesfarmers. He served on the BSS committee as treasurer, log keeper and recently as CFI. He has been an instructor since 1975 and an L3 since 2005. He enjoys completing large tasks in his Std Jantar 2 UKT and looks forward to the challenge of promoting progressive and consistent training in WA

National Manager Flying Training Operations and Standards (GLD) – AAFC


SQNLDR (AAFC) Dennis Medlow

National Airfields, Airspace and Avionics Officer


Graham Brown started gliding in 1977 at Narromine and has accumulated over 2200 hours in gliders and 200 hours in power. He has a diamond badge which was completed in 1984 however the diamond height was obtained in California. He has been an instructor at the Bathurst Soaring Club for over 20 years and the CFI for a 5 year stint. He competed in the Sports Class Nationals for many years and is currently the Coach for the Bathurst Soaring Club. He has piloted gliders and powered aircraft in the USA, NZ and Australia and has been exposed to the relatively busy airspace of the Los Angeles basin. He has just completed building and test flying a RA-Aus registered aircraft (Morgan Aeroworks Sierra 100). He has been representing GFA at the NSW RAPAC for 15 years. He also represents ASAC on the board of ASTRA (Australian Strategic Air Traffic Management Group) and on the STWG (Surveillance Technology Working Group) working on new surveillance technologies for aviation in Australia. He also the Australian representative to the FAI expert navigation working group (Europe based). As an Electrical Engineer he worked for manufactures and developers of avionics as a design engineer both in USA and Australia. Systems were Microwave Landing Systems (MLS) and DME. Also worked for Hughes Space and Communications in USA developing satellite control systems for geostationary communications satellites. Career has mainly been in telecommunications up to the executive level. Mainly retired now and owns shares in a PIK20B (for 38 years) and a Ventus CM.