CIVA VP Alan Cassidy Awarded the MBE

Twice a year, at the time of the Queen's official birthday and at the end of December, the British Government publishes a list of those citizens whose dedicated service to the nation is to be officially recognised. In the New Years Honours List for 2010, British Aerobatic Association Chairman Alan Cassidy was created a Member of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services to aerobatics. The medal that accompanies the award will be presented at a ceremony at one of the Royal Palaces at some time during the early part of 2010. This is the first time that anyone specifically involved in aerobatics has been so honoured and is a significant step forward in terms of the sport's official recognition. Alan, born in 1949, learned to fly in June 1967 following the award of a Flying Scholarship from the Royal Air Force. In 1970, when a third-year undergraduate at Trinity College, he was chosen to represent Cambridge University Air Squadron in the annual aerobatic competition against Oxford, Nottingham and East Midlands Universities and this clearly set an idea in Alan's head that only came to fruition many years later. Alan was commissioned into the Engineering Branch of the Royal Air Force in 1971 and remained in the RAF until January 1990, at which time he was a Wing Commander on the Directing Staff at the Royal Military College of Science. He then qualified as a commercial pilot, but his commercial flying career came to an abrupt halt in 1991 when the first Gulf War forced thousands of redundancies among newly qualified civil pilots in the UK. In response to this setback, Alan decided to work for himself and started an aerobatic training business, based within the West London Aero Club at the wartime ATA airfield of White Waltham, near his home in Maidenhead, England. This is now the leading aerobatic training establishment in the UK, preparing many new pilots for competition flying each year. Alan joined the British Aerobatic Association in 1983, while serving on the Harrier Operational Conversion Unit at RAF Wittering, near Stamford in Lincolnshire. He flew his first civilian aerobatic competition in 1984 in a CAP-10B from the flying club at Cranwell, the RAF College. In 1989 he became the Head of Contest Organisation for the BAeA, and in 2006 was elected Chairman by his fellow Directors. Alan has represented the UK regularly in International Aerobatic Championships since 1995, winning three Team Medals, and has been the British Unlimited Aerobatic Champion on four occasions. Alan has been the UK Delegate to CIVA since the mid-1990s and currently holds posts in its Bureau, Rules and Catalogue Sub-Committees. He is the author of the Aresti Software system for computerizing aerobatic sequence notation and of an aerobatic text book, "Better Aerobatics" published in 2003. In 2009, Alan led the BAeA organisational effort for the World Aerobatic Championships held at Silverstone Circuit, which was also instrumental in raising a significant sum for Charity in the form of the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance - a service funded solely from private donations. The Order of the British Empire recognises distinguished service to the arts and sciences, public services outside the Civil Service and work with charitable and welfare organisations of all kinds. It was created during the First World War in 1917 by George V. The King recognised the need for a new award of honour which could be more widely awarded, in recognition of the large numbers of people in the British Isles and other parts of the Empire who were helping the war effort both as combatants and as civilians on the home front. For the first time, women were included in an order of chivalry, and it was decided that the Order should also include foreigners who had helped the British war effort. From 1918 onwards there were Military and Civil Divisions, as George V also intended that after the war the Order should be used to reward services to the State in a much wider sense. Today the Order of the British Empire is the order of chivalry of British democracy. Valuable service is the only criterion for the award, and the Order is now used to reward service in a wide range of useful activities. Citizens from other countries may also receive an honorary award, for services rendered to the United Kingdom and its people. There are more than 100,000 living members of the Order throughout the world. Other notable sports people created Members of the Order alongside Alan are Jensen Button, the Formula 1 World Champion racing driver and 2009 World Champion gymnast Beth Tweddle. One aspect of the award that should be emphasised is that there was initially a lot if reluctance from the award authorities to acknowledge aerobatics in the Sport category. Although previously many motor sport practitioners have been recognised, especially in Car and Bike racing (Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart plus at least 2 others). With the World Aerobatic Championships held in the United Kingdom last year, recognition of aerobatics as a sport became much easier and this honors all the participants as well.