Flying from an aircraft carrier is one of the most difficult things to do in all of aviation. This is the story of a group of young Australians who joined the Royal Australian Navy to take up that challenge in the mid-1960s. Their story is unique because, unlike those who went before them and those who followed, they were sent to the USA to undertake their flying training with the United States Navy. So began an unusual chapter in the story of the Royal Australian Navy. ‘The Pensacola experiment’, as it was called, was an outstanding success.
This book follows the young men’s initial and sometimes almost accidental encounters with the Navy recruiting office to their arrival as fully fledged naval aviators at the Naval Air Station Nowra, NSW, ready to join their first squadrons. A mix of narrative and often hilarious personal anecdotes takes you along for the ride with the group as they land at the US Naval Air Station Pensacola, meet their host families, and learn to adapt to American culture in a huge training system that turned out thousands of naval aviators each year, many of them destined for the war in Vietnam at the time.
Readers will share in the growing sense of excitement and satisfaction as these young aviators work towards their initial carrier qualifications and ultimately gain their coveted ‘Wings of Gold’.
About the Authors
Trevor Rieck flew with three Navies as a helicopter pilot; he trained with the United States Navy, served as a helicopter pilot in the RAN and on exchange with the Royal Navy instructing helicopter pilots. In retirement, after 20 years in the Navy and 20 years in the Australian construction industry he took up an interest in history.
Jack McCaffrie is a retired Commodore RAN, whose flying career was spent mainly in Grumman S2-E/G Trackers, flying from HMAS Melbourne and NAS Nowra. Currently he is a visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong and the University of NSW at the Defence Academy.
Jed Hart served with the RAN at sea during Indonesian confrontation before completing flying training in Pensacola. He then flew with the RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam. Jed left the navy in 1970 and instructed on helicopters, he later became BHP’s Aviation Manager. He and his wife founded Hart Aviation, a company operating in sixty countries.