Go Flying Australia Podcast 013 – RAAF Squadron Leader John Laming AFC – P51 Mustang, Lincoln and VIP Squadron Pilot

Summary: Interview with RAAF Squadron Leader John Laming AFC.  In the chat we discuss in detail John’s RAAF service which ranges from captaining an Avro Lincoln maritime patrol aircraft to flying the Governor General and Prime Minister as apart of no 34 VIP transport Squadron based in Canberra.  John has flown a huge number of types during his time in the RAAF including the CAC Wirraway, P51 Mustang, De Havilland VampiresVickers Viscounts, Convair, DC-3 Dakota and Hawker Siddeley 748.  He even once flew a Hawker Sea Fury borrowed from the Royal Australian Navy which was at the time was the fastest piston powered aircraft in the world.

First job

Was with the Sydney Morning Herald Air Service at Camden who owned Lockheed Hudsons and DC-3s.  Harry Purvis was the Manager (Chief Lockheed Hudson Pilot during WW2).

The newspapers were airdropped from the aircraft into fields in country NSW.

This job lead to John joining the RAAF after a few accidents and the eventual closure of the Air Service.  After being unsuccessful on his first attempt John decided to gain some experience in flying Tiger Moths before reapplying.  John has some experience flying in the right hand seat of the DC-3.  Johns idol was a young pilot called Dick Cruikshank (mentioned in attached article) who flew for SMH and told John that he would never be a pilot.  Dick was killed 6 months later in an aircraft accident.

VH-SMK – Lockheed Hudson

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In this video there are examples of the Lockheed Hudson and the Douglas DC-3 which were used by the SMH Air Service at Camden where John worked

RAAF Initial Training

John learnt to fly in Tiger Moths (60 hours) and CAC Wirraways (140 hours) before graduating.

Three RAAF CAC Wirraways in formation flight

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Johns first operational aircraft was the Mustang, at that time pilots were being readied for combat in Korea.  John noted that the CAC Wirraway was a first class aircraft to get pilots ready for more powerful aircraft.  John had some troubles in the aerial gunnery phase and was scrubbed from the course.

An example of a CAC P-51 Mustang

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Flying the Lincoln

John was posted to Townsville flying the Avro Lincoln Bomber.  These Lincolns were converted to Maritime Patrol aircraft with a longer nose, Sonobouys and torpedoes.  There was no conversion courses at the time.  John simply started flying with an experiences captain.

A RAAF Avro Lincoln at low level

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The Lincoln was very heavy, high off the ground and had poor visibility out the front of the aircraft.  Landing was very tricky with a conventional landing gear, you lost all forward vision and used the compass to keep strait.  John noted that it was not standard to use checklists at that time.

John’s Lincoln Crew

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John finished up as a captain of the lincoln on his first tour on the Lincoln’s which is unheard of in the civilian world.

John had an interesting encounter with a United States Navy frigate called the USS Bowbell near Papua New Guinea.

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Flying the Hawker Sea Fury

John was able to Fly the RAN Hawker Sea Fury at Nowra during some time off from exercises. Unfortunately he was briefed incorrectly on the approach speed and he had a hard landing (no damage) in the aircraft as the speed he was flying was only used for carrier landings and was close to the stall speed.

An example of a RAN Sea Fury

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Notice the Canopy clearance (referenced in John’s story) on the Sea Fury in the below video.

Instructor

John had a number of tours as an instructor in the RAAF including as an instructor on Avro Lincolns where he was awarded the Air Force Cross for his efforts.  John notes that one of the keys to instructing is to be enthusiastic.

VIP Squadron Pilot

John was posted to Canberra to fly VIPs at a VIP Transport Squadron in the DC-3 and the Convair 440 metropolitan and did 7 years in this job.

An example of the CV-440 Metropolitan

Aircraft Investigation

John was involved in a number of Aircraft Investigations, he did not receive any additional training for this role.  He investigated the accident of a Macchi training aircraft where the aircraft pitched up vertically and crashed into the ground.

An example of a RAAF Macchi Trainer

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John has written an entertaining book called ‘Tall Tails of the South Pacific’ which can be purchased via the Lulu website.  You can win a copy of the book by being the first person to post a comment below this post related to one of John’s stories on the Air Facts Blog.

The Cover of John’s Book

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Johns Book – Tall Tails of the South Pacific

In part two of the Interview I am hoping to speak with John about his airline flying experiences with Air Nauru and Hapag-Lloyd in Europe.

Runway 30 Nauru International Airport

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250px-Nauru_on_the_globe_(Polynesia_centered)Links

Air Facts Blog – The journal for personal air travel, by pilots for pilots.

Johns Articles on the Airfacts Blog – The page which lists all of John’s articles on Air Facts.

Johns Book – Tall Tails of the South Pacific – Click here to buy John’s book.

Private Pilots Rumour Network (PPRUNE) – A forum for professional pilots.

  • Scott Crew

    Great interview. What a career.

    • Adam Knight

      Thanks for listening!

  • Ray Davis

    I’m wondering if there is anything this man has not done!
    What a remarkable life John has had.
    After reading one of his stories “A Mustang Memory” I found out something I never new… That Schofields Aerodrome used to be a RAAF base.
    I had been past it in the train and just thought it had always been a GA airstrip.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Adam Knight

      Thanks for listening Ray. I will send you out the copy of Johns Book for being the first to comment. I really enjoyed chatting with John who is a very down to earth guy, and am looking forward to hearing about his airline flying days in part two of the interview as well. Hope you enjoy the book!

  • Peter Kelly

    A great interview, thank you

    • Adam Knight

      Thanks for taking the time to listen. I am hoping to get back to talking about some slower and smaller aircraft for the next ep. I will try and get part 2 out in a few episodes time.

  • Tim Heylbut

    Awesome interview. Thanks

    • Adam Knight

      Thanks Tim. It was a pleasure to chat to John about his flying career.