I remember Dad, who I see now was drawing on his signalling skills, sitting at our kitchen table helping John to keep his crystal radio going. On reflection, John seemed to take as much if not more interest in aeroplanes as in crystal radios. I can remember him listening to the radio play ‘Biggles’; making balsa wood planes and becoming an air cadet at high school.
There appeared to be a deviation from John’s interest in flying aeroplanes after a careers advisor belatedly found that chemistry and physics (and possibly also crystal radios) were not really his forte after all. However a few years later, while he was completing his Accountancy Diploma at RMIT, fate – in this case the conscription lottery introduced during the Vietnam war – intervened. The marble with John’s birth date on it was pulled out during the selection ballot. Fortunately he was able to complete his accountancy studies before entering the forces via Air Force Officer training.
Planes did became a major part of John’s life–though not via the ‘pilot’ stream. With a background in accounting, and the completion of officer training, he was involved in the movement of pilots and other troops and the procurement of planes and related equipment.
Posted to Malaya in the early 1970’s, John lived on the Butterworth Air Base. I remember a MASH moment while visiting him at Butterworth - sipping champagne while watching a film on an outdoor movie screen outside the officers’ mess, with military plane engines revving thunderously in the background. From early roles in troop movements during the Vietnam War, he became involved, as he moved through the ranks, in the higher levels of procurement of advanced military equipment for the air force, including, of course, aeroplanes.
John had achieved the rank of Group Captain when he retired from the airforce at 45, a three year period in Washington USA a high point in his career trajectory. He has continued to be involved in accountancy roles involving procurement, however the procurement contracts he has negotiated since leaving the air force have related to the operation of energy companies and large local councils in Queensland, rather than planes.
Interestingly, John’s early interest in learning to fly re-emerged when he began to take flying lessons during his early sixties. Finally, the sky was the limit! He clearly enjoys flying and we have a great photo taken of him sitting in the pilot’s seat preparing for takeoff. I suspect being able to finally pilot an aircraft, even on training flights, meant almost as much to him as the career highs achieved when procuring military equipment for our air force.
On a final note, a year or so ago on a visit to Benalla, John arranged what could well have been a ‘bucket list’ experience - a lesson in a glider with a glider flight instructor, a lesson in which he was able to use the controls. He returned home to tell us about it, excited and exhilarated. Clearly a very memorable ‘Sky’s the Limit’ experience!