Captain Leigh Hornsby has contributed to the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) for many years in his capacity as Senior Helicopter Pilot with Helicopter Resources Pty Ltd. He has been a significant influence in the development of safe and successful ANARE helicopter activities. His experience spans Hughes 500C and 500D, Bell 206B, Bolkow BO105, Aerospatiale SA315 Lama, Aerospatiale AS350B Squirrel and long range Sikorsky S76A Mark II helicopters. Captain Hornsby’s role in the utilisation of these helicopters has contributed significantly to Australia’s scientific achievements in Antarctica.
Captain Hornsby’s competence, skill and attitude have been central to the development of ANARE’s helicopter capability and has enabled it to move safely and confidently towards long range and inter-station flights. The long range aviation capability has enhanced Australian Antarctic scientific and operational capacity. He has been responsible for the development and direction of the company’s training and operational procedures, including safety training for both aircrew and expeditioners. The strong emphasis given to the education of expeditioners in training courses and publications, and in operational standards set in the company’s Operations Manual, have contributed to ANARE’s enviable helicopter safety record, and are testimony to Captain Hornsby’s guidance and influence.
Captain Hornsby’s good nature has made him a valuable member of those expeditions in which he has participated. His maturity has been a stabilising influence in field operations in the Prince Charles Mountains where extended isolation and solitude can influence small groups. His leadership qualities have helped to create the necessary expeditioner regard for the hazards of Antarctic aviation. He is an excellent example to his fellow expeditioners and has earned the respect of those that have been fortunate to travel and work with him.
Captain Hornsby’s personal commitment can best be measured by his long participation in ANARE and willingness to undertake difficult tasks. While the popular conception of Antarctic aviation is one of adventure, excitement and discovery, its major component is the completion of laborious and often repetitive tasks. Tasks (such as sling loading large quantities of cargo between ship and shore) are often undertaken alone in marginal weather conditions and over long hours. Captain Hornsby has always been happy to accept onerous tasks, ensuring that they are conducted safely and efficiently.
His willingness to undertake an extended and difficult 1994–95 summer to ensure the satisfactory trial of Sikorsky S76A Mark II helicopters demonstrates his devotion to Antarctic aviation and ANARE. The need for a medical repatriation during the 1994–95 summer resulted in him flying one of two helicopters from the RSV Aurora Australis to Davis, via Casey and Mirny in one day. The flight of about 2,500 km approximated the distance from Hobart to Alice Springs.