Robert “Bob” Stewart Charles Tait has made an invaluable contribution to aviation in Australia, from founding a small regional air service in North Queensland to establishing one of Australia’s most respected aviation theory schools.
Born in Innisfail, North Queensland on 8 March, 1941, Bob spent most of his childhood free time after school with his face pressed up against the fence of the local airport watching the Tiger Moths taking off and landing. He knew that this was what he wanted to do with his life.
After completing a teaching scholarship, Bob returned to North Queensland as a secondary school science teacher. He spent nearly all his available earnings on learning to fly in Tiger Moths. In 1960, he finally achieved is dream of gaining his pilot’s licence No. 6890 (CASA changed that number quite a few years ago to 036890).
Within a few years he had gained his commercial licence and instructor rating and was Chief Flying Instructor of the Ingham Aero Club. He then founded his own company, Hinchinbrook Air Services.
As his experience and hours of flying increased, he developed a unique understanding of what it was like to operate in rural and remote areas of North Queensland, doing everything from passenger and freight transportation to dingo bating and land surveying work. This local knowledge as a member of the North Queensland community gave him great credibility among would-be pilots especially in matters of safety and operating in remote areas.
In 1970, Hinchinbrook Air Services was one of only two Department of Transport Air Branches for both pilot training and testing. The company’s flying manual also allowed it to operate as an Air Ambulance.
During his time in Ingham, Bob established a local Aerobatics Club and trained students with a view to improving their ability to handle difficult situations; and equally, to encourage participation in local charity fairs and open days by offering flying exhibitions.
At the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Youth Appeal, he staged an attempt at the Light Aircraft Altitude Record – which at the time was 19,000 feet. In a standard Cessna 182 he attained a height of 23,975 feet thus breaking the record for Class C1c aircraft.
This was all done while commenting live on local radio and raising enormous funds for charity. As anticipated, he ran out of fuel on the way down, but commented to the public and students alike, “… if you can’t do a forced landing over a field from this height, you shouldn’t be flying”.
After handing Hinchinbrook Air Services over to Bob Harris at Innisfail, Bob spent a year on Great Keppel Island operating a training and theory school. He then moved to Sydney briefly, where he worked for a time with the Cessna Company formulating teaching materials for Cessna’s range of aircraft.
In the early 1980s Bob moved to Brisbane’s Archerfield Airfield where he established Bob Tait’s Aviation Theory School. As a Grade One Instructor he continued to assist students with flight training, but his real passion was for teaching the complexities of commercial theory to students who were really struggling.
He also established the Queensland Chapter of the Australian Aerobatic Club and membership grew to well over 100. In the ensuing years, this fledgling chapter won the National Championships over three successive years under Bob’s tutoring and active participation in competitions.
Bob’s enthusiasm continues for all things aviation. He attained his helicopter licence in 1989 and in recent years has developed a keen interest in UAVs, publishing a training text acceptable to CASA for approving commercial users of drones.
Bob is widely known for his extensive list of detailed pure aviation theory books and study materials. He has also produced a range of recreation-based books for private pilots.
Bob is a regular guest speaker at Griffith University where he manages to enthral aviation students with his knowledge and experience gained from 16,000 hours and a 70-year love of flying.
That small boy who stood at the wire fence was not discouraged by a lack of funds or opportunity. Bob has often said “I got to spend a lifetime in the air from Cessnas to Pitts to ‘copters – and for that I am truly thankful. I feel like I should give something back”.
Bob has given back in spades.