Corlette’s Ruth Wilson awarded OAM in King’s Birthday Honours List

Ms Ruth Wilson, pictured here in 1981, has been awarded an OAM for services to hot air ballooning.

CORLETTE balloonist and author Ruth Wilson has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the King’s Birthday Honours List.

Governor-General David Hurley awarded Wilson the OAM for her dedication and commitment to aviation, particularly hot air ballooning, since 1975.

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Ms Wilson told News Of The Area she was humbled and proud to receive the award.

She also highlighted how dramatically the sport of ballooning had changed since she started in the sport.

“When I first stepped into a basket in 1975 I had a compass, three gas tanks and a burner above my head and that was it,” Ms Wilson said.

“We were not even allowed to carry a radio in case we were in contact with the crew on the ground.

“So I have gone through that whole process of competing with a map and a compass to targets on the ground.

“In more recent years I am at the championships as an official and I watch the pilots now.

“They get into a basket with a computer, a GPS, a mobile phone and a logger that tracks where they are.

“They have four electronic pieces in the basket and a pit crew that sends up the met and the weather, so things have changed dramatically.”

WIth her feet on the ground more often these days, Ms Wilson has written and published books, including her memoir, ‘Conquering Clouds’.

“When I get to the end of my life I want to be able to say to myself: ‘Have you brought joy to others and have you found joy yourself?’.

“All those years of sharing my basket and teaching people to fly, the stories I have written and told I have brought joy, and I have done it all voluntarily.

“I have certainly found a lot of joy.”

As a founding member of the Australian Ballooning Federation (ABF), Ms Wilson was the inaugural Secretary, and has since held various positions including President (1997-1998) and Vice President.

In 2021 she again accepted the role of ABF Secretary, a position held until this year.

In the early 1980s, Ms Wilson was invited to join with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) personnel to educate other airspace users on the capability of balloons to operate as safe aircraft in controlled airspace.

This work led to the introduction of commercial balloon licensing with CASA and expanded the scope of ballooning in Australia.

The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) is an IOC-recognised organisation of more than 100 member countries who participate in air sports worldwide.

The FAI’s Australian representative is Air Sport Australia Confederation (ASAC).

Ms Wilson continues to serve as ASAC Vice President, and is one of the FAI Ballooning Commission’s Australian delegates.

She is also a current contributing member to the FAI Media/PR Committee.

It was Ms Wilson’s concept and management that saw the success of the unique 1988 Bicentennial Trans-Australia Balloon Challenge, supported and funded by the Federal Government, to celebrate Australia’s bicentenary.

This unique aviation event attracted 78 teams from seventeen countries to compete across Australia over sixteen days.

The sport of ballooning gained both extensive national and international media coverage from the event.

Ms Wilson was Australia’s first hot air ballooning National Champion, and has represented her country at six World Ballooning Championships.

Her last world championship event was in 2018.

At the age of 75, Ms Wilson launched at night in the hydrogen filled balloon ‘Bernadette’ from Bern, Switzerland.

Pilot in Command, she flew her balloon to 15,000 feet above the snow-covered Swiss Alps at night, over the Italian Dolomites to land in an Italian vineyard after an eighteen hour non-stop flight.

With no sleep for 33 hours and water frozen due to the cold, this was an outstanding achievement.

Ruth Wilson has been honoured also with the following awards:

– 1979 ABF Inaugural National Champion Trophy

– 2000 Awarded Australian Women’s Pilots Association Trophy for long distance gas balloon flight of 608km (1999 Gordon Bennett Race)

– 2002 Inducted into Ballooning Hall-of-Fame, Australia

– 2008 Awarded the William Deane Award for Excellence for contribution to Ballooning

– 2017 FAI Hall of Fame Nominee

2021 FAI Paul Tissandier Diploma

Looking forward, Ms Wilson plans to continue writing, and participating actively in the local community.

“I am planning to do some more author talks for Conquering Clouds,” she said.

“I love writing, this is my second book; I will do more writing but mainly travel writing and author talks.

“I will also continue to play croquet with the Nelson Bay Croquet Club, where I have met some wonderful new friends.”


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