Ad Astra Aviator Podcasts.

An initiative by RAAFA NSW to capture the recollections and experiences of both retired and serving Air Force personnel.

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Wing Commander Grant Burr - Still Flying at Supersonic Speeds and Still Loving It

Wing Commander Grant Burr 

Joined the RAAF in 1996.

2001-2004, he was as a line fighter pilot during which time he deployed to fly combat missions in Iraq as part of Operation Falconer. He then was on exchange with the Canadian Forces.

In 2009, he was appointed Executive Officer 77 Squadron and focused his time on ensuring the Squadron’s junior aircrew maintained a camaraderie and passion for fighter flying.

Returning to Canada in 2012, he completed the Canadian Forces Command and Staff Course. He was next posted as Deputy Director Joint Strike Fighter Transition Team. 2015 saw him deployed on Operation Okra in the Middle East. In 2016, he became Commanding Office 77 Sqn, then returning to OKRA as leader of 77SQN combat missions 2017.   He currently serves on the Officer Aviation Specialist Stream in Air Combat Group

His conversion training to F-35A commences in 2021.



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John Kindler AO, AFC - Ejected twice from Mirage aircraft; 1972 and 1982

Air Vice Marshal (retired) John Kindler AO, AFC 

As an RAAF fighter pilot and qualified test pilot, John has flown 35 different types of aircraft, but mainly the F-86 Sabre, the Mirage IIIO and the F/A-18 Hornet. He held Squadron, Wing and Group command positions in fighter operations. John was appointed Air Commander Australia in March 2000.  He was responsible for the operational training & employment of some 10,000 Air Force combat personnel and the RAAF’s fleet of combat aircraft. John has co-chaired Australia’s Defence Force Airworthiness Boards & was Chairman of the Board of Newcastle Airport Limited. He also advises Pratt and Whitney Military Engines on Defence industry and acquisition policy. John had the unusual distinction of ejecting from a Mirage on 2 separate occasions! 


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Wing Commander (retired) Ron Haack

Wing Commander retired Ron Haack joined the Air Force in 1970.  He thought progression to Astronaut was through fast jet and test pilot qualifications and that is exactly what he did,  except for the Astronaut bit.  His fast jet experience was mainly Mirage and F18 Hornet.  His test pilot career began with the Empire Test Pilot School at Boscombe Down, and eventually included flying the first flights of most RAAF Hornets as they rolled off the assembly line. 

His Test Flying sojourn was full of exciting and dangerous moments of which he tells many stories which make your hair stand on end.


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Sergeant Grant Biles - Hornet Aircraft Technician

Since 2003, Grant Biles has been a Armament Technician on the F18 Classic Hornet. 

Big job considering the number of times the Hornet has been called upon to perform under pressure.  Almost like being on the Pit Crew in a Grand Prix. 

In this Podcast, he speaks with Gareth McCray about his life helping to keep the F18 in the air and the deployments he has been on including a sojourn in the Middle East. 

A very interesting and humble man.


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Emily Willis. F18 Fighter Pilot

Flight Lieutenant Emily Willis, Fighter Pilot.  Emily joined the Australian Defence Force in 2011 as a General Service Officer under an Aviation Cadetship and graduated with a flying posting to the Defence Force Basic Flying Training School (BFTS). Finishing BFTS, she joined the RAAF as a pilot and continued training at 2 Flying Training School. She graduated to join 2 Operaional Conversion Unit in December 2017 and was then posted to F18s at 77SQN, Williamtown. 

Emily relates here how her career as an Air Force fighter pilot has developed and what a ball she is having including one on one with the F35.

Find out with Emily what it is like to be a current day Fighter Pilot


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WW2 Sister Joan LOUTIT, 2nd M.A.E.T.U. (Medical Air Evacuation Unit) R.A.A.F.

Sister Joan LOUTIT, 2nd M.A.E.T.U. (Medical Air Evacuation Unit) R.A.A.F.

Sadly Mrs Joan Patterson formerly Sister Joan LOUTIT passed away on  Sept 11th 2018

A note from Joan: Friends were talking about V. J. Day and what we were doing when the Japanese surrendered in World War II. Some were at school, some went to a ball - I said I was in the Pacific Islands, nursing and flying battle-casualties back to Australia! Someone said that would make an interesting talk...

So Joan gave some talks part of which are read for you in this Podcast.



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F-35A Lightning II Wing Commander Darren Clare

For personnel at RAAF Base Williamtown a low-flying F-35A Lightning II is hardly a remarkable sight, but a low pass conducted on August 28 held great significance for Wing Commander Darren Clare.

It was his last flight before handing over command of No. 3 Squadron.

Having flown more than 350 hours in the F-35A, Wing Commander Clare was not only one of the first RAAF pilots selected to transition to the 5th Generation platform but was also selected as the commanding officer of the first Australian squadron to receive the aircraft – an honour he said was one of the most exciting moments in his career.

In this Podcast, Wing Commander Clare talks about his F35 flying experiences.


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Wing Commander (ret) Jim Treadwell AFC OAM, Meteors, Sabres, Mirages.

Wing Commander retired Jim Treadwell AFC  OAM,  a highly qualified and experienced Air Force pilot and leader.  He flew fighters for most of his life including Meteors, Sabres and Mirages.

Jim talks about highlights of his career while taking part in the first Sabre Ferry to Butterworth, Malaya,  flying on operations during the Malayan Emergency,  deploying to Ubon, Thailand as part of the air defence of Thailand during the Vietnam War and then also serving during Indonesian Confrontation. 

In 1977 he resigned from the Air Force to become a farmer.

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A Chance in a Million - Related by Pete Ring & Col Tomlinson

23 January 1979!  A momentous day would bring complete strangers together in strange circumstances.  As with all many momentous events, there was no inkling as to how the day would unfold.  The people involved were Ron Mitchell, Pete Ring and Col Tomlinson.  

A statement from Pete:   Having returned from leave, I was scheduled for a Check Ride in a Huey.   Ron Mitchell, the QFI checking me out was very experienced, a bloody good pilot and a nice all-round bloke.  I was anticipating enjoying the check ride.

A statement from Col, an  A4 Skyhawk Pilot:    Next came the great opening shock of the chute. The ballistic spreader, now incorporated in the seat, threw the risers out instantaneously and I slowed from 260 KTS to zero in approximately half a second.

Col and Pete are being interviewed for the Podcast.  Below is some background for them.  You will hear more about Ron's role during the Podcast.

Col Tomlinson.   Col was a private pilot 1969 to 1974 and then joined the Fleet Air Arm, flying Macchi and A4G Skyhawks.  He became a Qualified Flying Instructor and Instrument Rating Examiner.   In 1979, he ejected from a Skyhawk and landed in rough country near Braidwood NSW.  Here he met Peter Ring.  In 1983, after the Fleet Air Arm disbanded its Fighters as a result of decommissioning its aircraft carrier, he joined the RAAF and trained on Mirage III however as his back was damaged during his ejection he discontinued and went on to flying Caribous. In 1986 he joined Qantas, flying Boeing 747 2/3/400 Series.  

Peter Ring  AM  AFC began his Air Force life as a fighter pilot, then Fighter Combat Instructor flying mainly F86 Sabres and Mirage III.  In the 1960’s he was deployed to Ubon, Thailand and Malaysian Confrontation.  Later, he was posted as Commanding Officer of 5 Sqn operating Huey’s for 4 years, including deployment to the United Nations Emergency Force in the Sinai Desert. Resigning in 1981 he became a sheep farmer. He branched out to provide privately funded Change Programs for Youth and Corporate Programs to Accelerate Business Performance.     The programs were conducted using an experiential approach developed by Peter that improved “feet on the ground” self leadership. Currently, Peter is Secretary of the Air Force Association NSW, a Board Member of Wings Magazine, and a Committee Member of Fighter Squadrons Branch, Air Force Association NSW.


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Doctor Ron Houghton, WW 2 Bomber Pilot

Dr Ron Houghton, 96 yrs young relates his WWII experience as a Bomber Command Pilot and later in commercial aviation.  Ron joined the RAAF Reserve in May 1942 and after training in Australia, was posted to an Advanced Flying Unit (AFU) in the UK.  Ron flew Halifax bombers with No.102 Squadron RAF, and fondly remembers a particular petrol run he undertook from Yorkshire to Brussels after Brussels was liberated.  His squadron was tasked with delivering some eighty jerry cans of petrol to the fuel starved British army in Belgium.  On completion of Bomber Command operations, Ron was posted to Fighter Command and flew Spitfires/Hurricanes.  Ron continued flying until the end of the war, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in May 1945 for 'skill and fortitude in operations against the enemy'.  Upon discharge in November 1945, Ron joined Qantas, eventually working his way up to executive level.  After leaving Qantas, Ron worked with several Asian airlines.  He then completed a PhD in aeronautical engineering at Sydney University, eventually becoming an Honorary Associate.  Ron currently serves as President of the Bomber Command Association of Australia.  Ron recalls the mateship that formed in crews and he has kept in touch with his Bomber Command crew throughout the years.

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