Aviation expert recognised for lifetime achievement at Swinburne

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Stephen Fankhauser

Stephen Fankhauser has been central to the success of Swinburne’s aviation programs for 25 years.

In summary

  • Stephen Fankhauser has been recognised at the 2019 Swinburne Vice-Chancellor’s Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Stephen has been integral to developing Swinburne’s relationships with Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia airlines
  • He recently lobbied for an increase in the FEE-HELP loan cap for aviation flight training

Highly regarded aviation industry expert Stephen Fankhauser has been recognised at the 2019 Swinburne Vice-Chancellor’s Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Stephen has been central to the success of Swinburne’s aviation programs for 25 years.

He is an expert in aviation technology and flight training. His commentary frequently appears in the national media.

Stephen was Department Chair of Aviation for the majority of his career at Swinburne and is currently Deputy Chair of Aviation.

Speaking at the Swinburne Vice-Chancellor’s Awards ceremony, Vice-Chancellor Professor Linda Kristjanson said: “Stephen is a loyal and committed mentor. Staff speak fondly of his leadership. He thrives on challenges but always finds a way to overcome them. It is his determination to see our aviation programs succeed that truly highlights his commitment to Swinburne."


Stephen studied aeronautical engineering in the late 1970s and early 1980s, then worked at the former Government Aircraft Factories (now Boeing) at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne for 10 years before joining Swinburne in 1994.

This background equipped him to teach aircraft structures, aircraft design and propulsion systems, which he has done for many years at Swinburne. Stephen also holds a private pilot’s licence.

At Swinburne, he has been integral to developing relationships with Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia airlines.

His efforts to build trust and credibility with CAE Oxford Aviation Academy resulted in a longstanding successful partnership from which many of Swinburne’s aviation students have benefited.

“From day one I wanted to be involved in developing and delivering the best aviation program in Australia,” Stephen says.

“The overarching thing that I’ve very much enjoyed is the interaction with students, both during their time here at Swinburne and when they go out and develop their own careers. There are now senior people in the industry that I taught over 20 years ago.”

In 2012, Stephen led the launch of the Aviation Simulation Laboratory at Swinburne. At the time, it was the only research facility in Australia equipped with simulators capable of replicating flight in both aeroplanes and helicopters.

More recently, Stephen was at the forefront of advocating for an increase in the FEE-HELP loan cap for aviation flight training so that students would not have to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket while studying. From 1 January 2020 the combined HELP loan limit for eligible aviation students will increase from $100,000 to $152,700. This will allow students to defer aviation course tuition fees that lead to a commercial pilot licence qualification.