Angus Houston

Air Chief Marshal Sir Allan Grant "Angus" Houston, AK, AC (Mil), AFC[1] (born 9 June 1947) is a retired senior officer of the Royal Australian Air Force. He served as Chief of Air Force from 20 June 2001 and then as the Chief of the Defence Force from 4 July 2005. He retired from the military on 3 July 2011.

Sir Angus Houston
Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston AC, AFC.jpg
Angus Houston at the 2010 Anzac Day National Ceremony, Canberra.
Born (1947-06-09) 9 June 1947 (age 73)
Ayrshire, Scotland
Service/branchRoyal Australian Air Force
Years of service1970–2011
RankAir Chief Marshal
Commands heldChief of the Defence Force (2005–11)
Chief of Air Force (2001–2005)
Integrated Air Defence System (1999–2000)
No. 86 Wing (1994–1995)
5th Aviation Regiment (1989–1990)
No. 9 Squadron (1987–1989)
AwardsKnight of the Order of Australia (General Division)
Companion of the Order of Australia (Military Division)
Air Force Cross
Complete list
Other workChairman of the Council for the Order of Australia
Chairman of Airservices Australia
Chairman of the ANZAC Centenary Advisory Board
Chancellor of the University of the Sunshine Coast
2008 Anzac Day Service at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra (left to right):Angus Houston, Murray Gleeson, Mrs. and Jon Stanhope, Mrs and Peter Cosgrove, Kevin Rudd.

Since then Houston has been appointed to a number of positions, including chairman of Airservices Australia. In March 2014 he was appointed to head the Joint Agency Coordination Centre during the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and in the Australia Day Honours of 2015, he was knighted for this service.[2]

Early lifeEdit

Houston was born on 9 June 1947 in Ayrshire, Scotland and educated at Strathallan School in Forgandenny, Perthshire. He emigrated to Australia in 1968[3] to work as a jackaroo on a sheep and wheat farm near the town of Mukinbudin in the North Eastern Wheatbelt region of Western Australia.[4]

Service careerEdit

Early careerEdit

Houston joined the RAAF as a cadet pilot in 1970 and was soon given the nickname "Angus".[4] On 20 March 1971, he was granted an eight-year short-service commission with the rank of pilot officer,[5] and was promoted to flying officer on 20 March 1973.[6] He spent the early part of his career flying UH-1 Iroquois helicopters in various parts of Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.[7] On 10 March 1975, he received a permanent commission,[8] with a promotion to flight lieutenant on 20 September.[9]

After graduation from Flying Instructors Course in 1975, Houston completed several instructional tours on Macchi MB-326H, British Aircraft Corporation Strikemaster and Iroquois aircraft. A posting to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) from 1976–1978 was followed by two years at No. 9 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley. In late 1979, Houston was posted to Hill Air Force Base, Utah U.S.A. for exchange flying duties with a United States Air Force helicopter unit.[10]

In 1980 he was awarded the Air Force Cross for an open sea rescue in gale-force winds off the coast of New South Wales in 1979.[11] He was promoted to squadron leader on 1 January 1982.[12]

After a further posting to No. 9 Squadron as the Executive Officer, and staff training at RAAF Staff College, Houston was posted to the Department of Air (Development Division) where he was involved in the Black Hawk helicopter Project. In 1987, Houston assumed command of No. 9 Squadron to introduce the Black Hawk helicopter, to relocate the unit from Amberley to Townsville, Queensland, and to transfer the capability to the Australian Army.[10] In 1989 he served one year in command of the 5th Aviation Regiment.[10] Houston was admitted as a Member of the Order of Australia in 1990 for his work in the transfer of responsibility for Blackhawk operations.[13]

Following graduation from Joint Services Staff College, Houston was posted to the Joint Operations staff at Headquarters Australian Defence Force and was involved in strategic planning during the Persian Gulf War of 1990–1991.[10]

On promotion to group captain in July 1992, he assumed the post of Director Air Force Policy and negotiated the establishment of the RSAF Flying School at RAAF Base Pearce.[10] After completing a C-130H Hercules conversion in 1993, Houston commanded No. 86 Wing from 1994 to 1995.[10]

Houston attended the Royal College of Defence Studies in London in 1996. He was Chief of Staff, Headquarters Australian Theatre from 1997 to 1999, Commander Integrated Air Defence System from 1999 to 2000 and Head Strategic Command from 17 August 2000.[10]

Senior commandEdit

Houston was appointed as Chief of Air Force (CAF) on 20 June 2001 and, in the 2003 Australia Day Honours, advanced to Officer of the Order of Australia.[14] As acting Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) in 2001, Houston played a central role in the Children Overboard Affair. At a Senate inquiry in February 2002, Houston challenged the then government's claim made during the 2001 election campaign, that seafaring asylum seekers had thrown children overboard in a presumed ploy to secure rescue and passage to Australia.[15][16]

On 4 July 2005, he was promoted to air chief marshal and appointed Chief of the Defence Force. In the Australia Day Honours of 26 January 2008, he was advanced to a Companion of the Order of Australia.[17] In March 2008, Houston's appointment was extended to 3 July 2011.[18]

Later lifeEdit

After his retirement from the CDF position, the Australian Government appointed Houston as Chair of the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board on 6 July 2011, with the remit to "provide strategic advice and recommendations on the planning and implementation of Anzac Centenary events".[19] On 6 December 2011, it was announced that the Australian Government had appointed Houston as the next chairman of Airservices Australia on the grounds of his aviation, governance and leadership experience.[20]

In June 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that Houston would chair an expert group that would examine asylum seeker policy and prepare a report recommending a solution for the Government's consideration.[21]

In February 2014, Houston was appointed chair of the Defence SA Advisory Board. The position was previously held by General Peter Cosgrove.[22]

Houston speaking to the media at a JACC press conference in Perth, 14 April 2014

On 30 March 2014, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that Houston will head the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), based in Perth, formed to oversee the efforts to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. At that time, the plane had been missing for just over three weeks since its disappearance on about Saturday, 8 March 2014.[23][24]

On 26 January 2015, Houston was appointed a Knight of the Order of Australia (AK) for his service to Australia and commitment to the MH17 and MH 370 disasters.[2] Saying he was "surprised and deeply humbled," he said he would prefer to be called by his name instead of "Sir Angus." "It's a great honour to be recognised in this way. But I'd like people to still call me Angus. That's probably the way I am," he said.[25] The ceremony in which he was officially knighted was held on 17 April 2015 at Government House, Canberra by the Governor-General of Australia, General Sir Peter Cosgrove.[26]

On 1 June 2015, Houston was announced as the new special envoy for South Australia. According to Premier Jay Weatherill, Houston is tasked with supporting trade missions, providing advice on international engagement strategies and providing important introductions in key markets. Weatherill also noted Houston's strong relationships with military leaders across Asia being potentially advantageous to the state.[27]

Houston was elected to the role of chancellor of the University of the Sunshine Coast and took office from 1 April 2017.[28]

Houston was appointed to the board of Virgin Australia in December 2018, replacing Mark Vaile.[29]

Houston is an Honorary Patron of the ACT Veterans Rugby Club, the Bomber Command Association in Australia, Sunnyfield Disability Services and the Australian American Association Canberra Division. He is the chair of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra.[30]

Personal lifeEdit

Houston and his wife Liz, who is a teacher, have three sons.[31]

In July 2010, while CDF, Houston took medical leave to deal with prostate issues.[32][33]

Honours and awardsEdit





  Knight of the Order of Australia (AK) 26 January 2015[2]
  Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) (Military division) 2008[17]
Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) (Military division) 2003[14]
Member of the Order of Australia (AM) (Military division) 1990[13]
  Air Force Cross (AFC) 1980[11]
  Australian Service Medal 1945-1975 PNG Clasp
  Centenary Medal 2001[34]
  Defence Force Service Medal with Federation Star 40–44 years of service
  Australian Defence Medal
  Meritorious Service Medal (Singapore) 1 August 2003[35]
  Knight Grand Commander of the Order of Military Service (Malaysia)
  Commander of the Legion of Honour (France)
  Distinguished Service Order (Singapore) 24 August 2007[36]
  Order of Excellence (Pakistan) 2008
  Medal of the Order of Timor-Leste[37] (East Timor) 2 February 2011[38]
  Commander of the Legion of Merit (United States) 11 May 2011[39]
  Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands) (Military division) – 18 May 2011[40]
  National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal (United States) 2011

Honorary DegreesEdit

Honorary degrees
Location Date School Degree
  Australia 16 December 2013 Griffith University Doctor of the University (D.Univ) [41]
  Australia 27 November 2015 University of New South Wales Doctor of the University (D.Univ) [42] [43]
  Australia 15 December 2016 Australian National University Doctorate [44]
  Australia 2017 University of South Australia Doctorate [45]


  1. ^ "Designations and Insignia Ordinance, section 5" (PDF). Order of Australia booklet. Governor General of Australia. 21 May 2009. p. 40. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Knight of the Order of Australia" (PDF). Australia Day Honours 2015. 26 January 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 January 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2015. For extraordinary and pre-eminent achievement and merit in service to Australia, through distinguished service in the Australian Defence Force, continued commitment to serve the nation in leadership roles, particularly the national responses to the MH370 and MH17 disasters, and in a variety of roles in the community.
  3. ^ "Air Chief Marshals". Air Marshals of the RAAF. Royal Australian Air Force Air Power Development Centre. Retrieved 27 July 2010.
  4. ^ a b Fidler, Richard (18 August 2017). "The aerial view: how Angus Houston took to the skies". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  5. ^ "Royal Australian Air Force". Commonwealth of Australia Gazette (43). 22 April 1971. p. 2499. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  6. ^ "Royal Australian Air Force". Commonwealth of Australia Gazette (43). 12 April 1973. p. 47. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  7. ^ Dapin, Mark (11 June 2011). "An Officer and a Gentleman". Good Weekend. The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 12. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  8. ^ "Royal Australian Air Force". Australian Government Gazette (National) (G13). 8 April 1975. p. 112. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Royal Australian Air Force". Australian Government Gazette (National) (G34). 2 September 1975. p. 13. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Sergei. "I See the Indian Ocean to be as Important as the Pacific". Future Directions International. Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  11. ^ a b It's an Honour – Air Force Cross – 14 June 1980
    Citation: 9 Sqn RAAF – Helicopter rescue off Evans Head – For devotion to duty as a pilot of No9 Sqn RAAF
  12. ^ "Air Force Regulations". Commonwealth of Australia Gazette (National) (G34). 25 August 1981. p. 37. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  13. ^ a b It's an Honour – Member of the Order of Australia – 26 January 1990
    Citation: For service to the RAAF as CO No9 Sqn and subsequently Officer Commanding 5th Aviation Regiment
  14. ^ a b "Officer of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Australian Government. 26 January 2003.
    Citation: For distinguished service to the Australian Defence Force and the Royal Australian Air Force in senior command appointments.
  15. ^ Forbes, Mark; Gordon, Michael; Taylor, Kerry (20 February 2002). "Defence chief told Reith: no children overboard". The Age. p. 1. Archived from the original on 5 September 2007. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
  16. ^ "New defence chief dismisses 'children overboard' shadow". ABC News Online. 18 April 2005. Archived from the original on 18 September 2006. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
  17. ^ a b "Companion of the Order of Australia". Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. Australian Government. 28 January 2008. Archived from the original on 11 August 2008.
    Citation: For eminent service to the Australian Defence Force as Chief of the Defence Force.
  18. ^ "New Defence leadership team announced". 19 March 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  19. ^ "100 years of ANZAC – Anzac Centenary Program 2014–2018 – Advisory Board". Archived from the original on 25 February 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  20. ^ "Houston to chair Airservices Australia". ABC News. 6 December 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  21. ^ ABC Radio Australia, 'Houston to lead asylum policy panel after Senate rejects bill 29 June 2012
  22. ^ "Houston replaces Cosgrove in defence advisory role". ABC News. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  23. ^ "Objects seen in jet search are fishing equipment". 31 March 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2014.[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ Milman, Oliver (30 March 2014). "Flight MH370: former Australian defence chief to co-ordinate search". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  25. ^ AAP (26 January 2015). "Just call me Angus, says newest knight". The Courier & Mail. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  26. ^ Angus Houston: Former Defence Force chief officially knighted, ABC News Online, 17 April 2015
  27. ^ "Sir Angus Houston appointed special envoy for SA investment". ABC News. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  28. ^ "Chancellor Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston AK, AFC (Ret'd)". University of the Sunshine Coast. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  29. ^ "Sir Angus Houston joins Virgin Aust board". SBS News. 12 December 2019. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  30. ^ "About us – Governance". Canberra Symphony Orchestra. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  31. ^ "Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, AC, AFC Chief of the Defence Force". Department of Defence. 9 March 2008. Archived from the original on 4 March 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  32. ^ Mark Dodd (2010) Angus Houston takes leave for prostate surgery, 26 July 2010, The Australian.
  33. ^ CDF to take leave for medical treatment[permanent dead link], Defence Media Release MSPA 319/10, 26 July 2010.
  34. ^ It's an Honour – Centenary Medal – 1 January 2001
    Citation: For outstanding service as Chief of Air Force
  35. ^ "Australian Chief of Air Force Receives Prestigious Military Medal". MINDEF Singapore. 1 August 2003. Archived from the original on 29 October 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2007.
  36. ^ "President Nathan Confers Top Military Award on Chief of the Australian Defence Force". MINDEF Singapore. 24 August 2007. Archived from the original on 5 August 2012. Retrieved 24 September 2007.
  37. ^ "Order of Timor-Leste, Decree Law 20/2009 of 6 May" (PDF). 6 May 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  38. ^ "Chief of Defence Force receives Order of Timor Leste" (Press release). Ministerial and Executive Coordination and 11 February 2011. Archived from the original on 8 April 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  39. ^ "Legion of Merit". Photos/Videos. U.S. Department of Defense. 11 May 2001. Archived from the original on 30 March 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  40. ^ Defence head awarded Dutch honour, 18 May 2011 Archived 20 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
Military offices
Preceded by
General Peter Cosgrove
Chief of the Defence Force
Succeeded by
General David Hurley
Preceded by
Air Marshal Errol McCormack
Chief of Air Force
Succeeded by
Air Marshal Geoff Shepherd
Academic offices
Preceded by
John Dobson
Chancellor of the University of the Sunshine Coast