Pilot Academy announces CEO transition

Published on 05 November 2021


The Chair of The New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy, David Rae, today announced the resignation of Phill Bedford as CEO of the Pilot Academy. Ray Nelson, the Academy’s Chief Flying Instructor, will step in as Acting CEO.

Phill is taking a position as CEO of Skyline Healthcare Group, an air ambulance company based in Napier.

David said the Board is pleased to be able to make an orderly transition from one high performing leader to another, with the changes taking effect on 6 December 2021.

“Phill has made an outstanding contribution to NZICPA, and can take much of the credit for building the Academy into the first-class institution that it is today. Since 2016, he has transformed a small school at Feilding with 35 students, 6 aircraft and 5,000 annual flying hours into an Academy more than three times as large.”

“The education performance of the Academy is first class. New Zealand Qualifications Authority gave us the highest possible rating in their independent review, ranking us the best fixed-wing pilot training organisation in the country. Phill can be very proud of what he has built.”

“The Board and employees thank Phill for his outstanding leadership. We wish him and his family every success in their new life with Skyline Healthcare.”

“We are also pleased to announce that Ray Nelson will step in as acting-CEO. Ray has been with the company and its predecessor since 2015 and has been Chief Flying Instructor since 2017. He is a key part of the leadership team and has been integral in building the safety systems and culture at NZICPA.”

“Ray is a terrific instructor with wide experience in management and leadership. He is just the right person to get us back on the path to growth and normal operations,” said Mr Rae.

“The Board is also excited about the opportunity to build a long-term partnership with Skyline Healthcare Group. There are so many ways that we can work together for the benefit of both organisations,” said Mr Rae.

“In the meantime, our number one priority, as always, is safe operation.”

Additional information

The New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy has generated $12.5m in revenue since commencing operations at the Whanganui Airport in July 2016. 75 international students have contributed to the community culturally, socially, and economically. The overall economic benefit to Whanganui from international education alone is estimated at $57.5m.  NZICPA has also contributed significantly to operations at the Whanganui Airport and the Council is satisfied the Company has exceeded the original strategic intent.  NZICPA has significant agreements in place, has 92 international students enrolled and will continue to make a substantial contribution to the Whanganui District Council Economic Development Strategy.

Ray Nelson has been Chief Flying Instructor at NZICPA since 2017, overseeing all the daily flight and ground training operations as well as being a key member of both the Safety and SMS Implementation committee. He began as a flight instructor in 2015 after completing his Diploma in Flight Instruction with Flight Training Manawatu. During this time, whilst working full time, he also completed the Airline

Preparation Strand of the Diploma in Aviation. He was appointed to the role of Operations Manager and in October 2016 was made Deputy Chief Flying instructor. 

Prior to his flight training career Ray was a soldier with the New Zealand Army, involving operational deployments in East Timor and Afghanistan.