Flying the BAC Strikemaster Mk88 in RNZAF Service: Part 4 Jan – Jun 1983
January 1983183 Opcon, weapons at Raumai
After nearly a month away enjoying Christmas and New Year holidays, my first flight for 1983 was on Monday 10 Jan 83 as IP in NZ6365 for 1.3 hours, as 1 of 3, flying with Plt Off Dave Houghton of 183 Opcon; we did some Close Formation refresher flying before splitting the formation of three into single aircraft in order to undertake a ‘Continuation’ sortie each, including upper air work, PFL and circuits. On Tuesday 11 Jan 83 I flew as IP with Plt Off Paul Muysert of 183 Opcon in NZ6368 for 1.3 hours, as 1 of 2, doing Close and Tactical formations before finishing the sortie with a GCA.
In 2022, some 41 years after the events, I recall the extra load I took on by having to run the 183 Opcon by myself, in addition to the normal duties I faced as CO 14 Sqn. My Op Flt Cdr, Flt Lt Garry Rasmussen, had been posted to 75 Skyhawk Squadron, and Flt Lt Gavin Howse (of the 14 Sqn Training Flt but well qualified to teach on the Op Flt as well) was posted to a 3-month course in UK, so I used Flt Lt Ross Drysdale of the Trg Flt and Sqn Ldr Iggy Wood (Strike Wing Executive Officer) as stand-in IPs when required.
Wednesday 12 Jan 83 brought a solo flight for me as IP in NZ6372 for 1.3 hours, as 1 of 2, providing Lead Support for a 183 Opcon pilot doing Close and Tactical formations before a pairs GCA and a pairs landing. And I repeated the same sortie content and format of the Wednesday flight on Friday 14 Jan 83, this time flying NZ6374 for 1.2 hours. A second flight on Friday saw me as IP, as 4 of 4, in NZ6375 for 1.3 hours with Plt Off Dave Houghton doing his first four-aircraft Tactical formation sortie.
Monday 17 Jan 83 brought a 1.1 hour IP flight for me, as 1 of 4, solo in NZ6374 doing four aircraft tactical formation flying. A second sortie on Monday saw me with Flt Lt (Dr.) Sandy Dawson in NZ6367 for 1 hour doing tactical and close formations, as 2 of 4, for Sandy’s shortened Opcon. I had two flights on Tuesday 18 Jan 83, both as IP – the first was in NZ6367 with Plt Off Dave Houghton of 183 Opcon for 1.2 hours doing 1 v 1 Basic Fighter Manoeuvers #1 (BFM) – BFM served as an introduction to basic manoeuvres needed for later ACM and DACT sorties. My second flight that day involved the same sortie content as the earlier BFM #1 flight, but this time I was with Plt Off Paul Muysert in NZ6373 for 1.1 hours.
On Wednesday 19 Jan 83 I had three flights – for the first one I was solo in NZ6364 for 1.0 hour doing a Lo Nav to FRA at Raumai, followed by some HDB and SDB bombing – I was 5 seconds late on my nominated TOT and my FRA bomb was plotted as 15m at 10 o’clock from the target on the attack heading with a 30 knot wind – not too bad! My 10 Deg HDB CEP was 12.5m, and 20 Deg SDB CEP 13.5m. My second flight that day was as IP in NZ6373, as 1 of 2, with Plt Off Nick Osborne of 183 Opcon doing BFM 2 for 1 hour. My third flight was an engine Test flight in NZ6361 with Corporal Ward as pax for 1.0 hour, with a GCA to finish the flight.
Thursday 20 Jan 83 brought three IP flights. First up, as 1 of 2, I gave dual instruction on BFM 2 and close formation practice to Plt Off Paul Muysert in NZ6372 for 1.1 hours; next I gave dual instruction in NZ6364 to Flt Lt Dennis Green RAAF for 1.0 hour on ‘popups’ and 10 deg HDB and SDB at Raumai; and finally, as 2 of 2, in NZ6364 I gave dual to Flt Lt (Dr.) Sandy Dawson on Close Formation and BFM for 0.9 hours. Friday 21 Jan 83 saw me on two flights, both as IP – the first was in NZ6367 for 1.0 hour with Plt Off Dave Houghton on his Opcon doing Defensive BFM 1, and the second was with Sqn Ldr Scott Glendinning in NZ6365 for 0.5 hours doing ‘popups’, 10 Deg SDB and HDB bombing at Raumai.
On Tuesday 25 Jan 83, my first flight of two that day was a relatively rare (for me) solo sortie – in NZ6365 for 0.9 hours where I completed a Lo Nav to FRA at Raumai (2 seconds late on TOT with bomb plotted 47m at 10 o’clock in a 35 knot wind), followed by 10 deg HDB (16m CEP) and 20 deg SDB (17.5m CEP). My second flight was as IP with Plt Off Nick Osborne in NZ6362 for 0.9 hours doing 2 v 1 ACM as part of his Opcon. Wednesday 26 Jan 83 brought another solo flight, this time in NZ6365 for 1.0 hour doing a Lo Nav/FRA sortie to Raumai (12 seconds late on TOT and bomb score 28m/10 in a 30 knot wind) and 10 deg HDB and SDB (17m CEP for HDB, and 5m CEP for SDB).
Thursday 27 Jan 83 saw an inter-squadron weapons competition for the McIntyre Trophy: I flew another Lo Nav to FRA at Raumai, this time in NZ6362 for 1.3 hours and my score was 1 second late on TOT with my single bomb score 23m at 12 o’clock, and this gave me 8th equal place out of 22 pilots in the competition. Whilst there were individual bragging rights to the pilots with the best individual scores, the Trophy was awarded for the lowest combined average score from pilots of each of the two squadrons – 14 Sqn (Strikemasters), and 75 Sqn (Skyhawks) – but I don’t recall which Squadron won!
I had two flights on Friday 28 Jan 83, both as IP. The first was, as 1 of 3, in NZ6364 for 0.9 hours with Plt Off Dave Houghton doing his Opcon 2 V 1 ACM; and the second was again as 1 of 3, this time with Plt Off Paul Muysert in NZ6364 for 1.0 hour doing Opcon 1 v 2 ACM ‘initial moves’. Two more flights on Monday 31 Jan 83 ended my flying for the month – the first was Opcon 1 v 2 ACM in NZ6364 for 1.0 hour with Plt Off Nick Osborne, and the second in NZ6366 for 1.0 hour with Plt Off Dave Houghton doing the same. With the late start to flying for the month because of New Year holidays, I still amassed 25 sorties for 26.3 hours in the remaining three weeks of January – and my running totals were now 270.3 hours in the SMR, of which 132.2 were IP, and a Grand Total of 3863.5 hours on all types, of which 1349.9 were as IP.
Flying for the month began for me as IP for two sorties on Tuesday 1 Feb 83 – the first was as 2 of 4 in NZ6364 with Plt Off Paul Muysert doing Opcon 2 v 2 ACM for 1.0 hour; and the second was again as 2 of 4 in NZ6364 for 1.0 hour but this time with Plt Off Dave Houghton doing Opcon 2 v 2 ACM. On Wednesday 2 Feb 83 I had one solo IP sortie in NZ6373 for 0.9 hours, where I was 1 of 4, doing Opcon 2 v 2 ACM. And Thursday 3 Feb 83 brought another solo sortie, this time in NZ6374 for 0.9 hours, as 3 of 4, doing Opcon 4 v 2 ACM.
With the BFM/ACM phase of Opcon now competed, it was time for the air-to-ground weapons phase to commence; Monday 7 Feb 83 saw me as IP in NZ6361 for 0.8 hours doing Opcon Level HDB and 10 deg SDB bombing at Raumai for Plt Off Nick Osborne. Wednesday 9 Feb 83 saw me as IP in NZ6364 for 0.7 hours with Plt Off Dave Houghton doing Opcon 10 deg HDB and 20 Deg SDB at Raumai. I had two weapons flights on Friday 11 Feb 83, the first of which saw me in NZ6376 for 0.7 hours giving instruction to Flt Lt ‘Merp’ Panther of the Training Flight for some 10 deg HDB and 20 Deg SDB at Raumai; and the second was solo in NZ6373 for 0.7 hours, as 2 of 2, for Pairs popups, with extra passes for 10 deg HDB (20m CEP) and 20 deg SDB (3.5m CEP).
Monday 14 Feb 83 brought two flights:- in the first I was solo in NZ6373 for 0.8 hours, as 2 of2, doing pairs popups and 10 deg HDB (10m CEP), 10 deg SDB (7m CEP), and 15 deg gunnery (63% !!!) at Raumai. My second flight that day was as IP in NZ6365 with Plt Off Nick Osborne doing Opcon popups for 1.0 hour at Raumai. Another two IP flights followed on Tuesday 15 Feb 83, the first with Plt Off Dave Houghton in NZ6365 for 0.8 hours doing Opcon 30 deg and 20 deg R/P, and 15 Deg gunnery at Raumai; and the second with Plt Off Nick Osborne in NZ6365 for 0.9 hours doing the same as for the earlier flight that day.
On Wednesday 16 Feb 83, I flew as IP in NZ6364 for 0.8 hours taking Sqn Ldr Scott Glendinning for weapons instruction at Raumai – 10 deg HDB, 30 deg SDB, 30 deg R/P, and 15 deg gunnery. After that, I flew NZ6362 for 0.9 hours to Wigram taking OC Strike Wing, Wg Cdr Graeme Goldsmith as pax – we remained overnight and returned to Ohakea in NZ6362 the next day, Thursday 17 Feb 83, taking 1.1 hours. Friday 18 Feb 83 brought three flights, one of which was very short – the first flight was for 1.1 hours as IP in NZ6364 with Plt Off Dave Houghton on Opcon 45 deg SDB, 30 deg SDB and 15 deg gunnery; and the second was as IP again doing the same weapons sortie profile with Plt Off Paul Muysert in NZ6373 for 0.9 hours. My third flight that day was in NZ6365, but as the undercarriage stuck down after takeoff, the sortie was aborted after only 0.1 hours.
Monday 21 Feb 83 brought two more IP weapons sorties at Raumai – the first as 2 of 2 in NZ6365 for 0.8 hours teaching Plt Off Dave Houghton Opcon Pairs popups, 10 Deg HDB, R/P and gunnery; and the second a repeat of the first sortie to Raumai but this time in NZ6369 for 0.8 hours with Plt Off Paul Muysert. Two more Raumai IP flights followed on Tuesday 22 Feb 83 – the first with Flt Lt (Dr.) Sandy Dawson as 1 of 2 in NZ6365 for 0.9 hours doing Opcon pairs popups – 10 Deg HDB (4m CEP), 30 Deg R/P (22.5m CEP) and 15 deg gunnery (5%); the second flight was again with Sandy Dawson in NZ6365 for 1.0 hour, as 1 of 4, doing four aircraft Popups – 10 Deg HDB (7.5m CEP) and 20 Deg R/P (20 m CEP).
On Thursday 24 Feb 83 I recorded my next two flights, both of which were as IP – the first was in NZ6368 for 1.2 hours doing Opcon low flying to 50 feet AGL with Plt Off Dave Houghton; and the second was in NZ6372 with Plt Off Nick Osborne doing the same low flying profile for 1.4 hours: I think we used the extensive Inland Low Flying area to the east of Mt Ruapehu and north of Waiouru. A third flight on Thursday saw me flying NZ6364 for 0.8 hours on the 14 Sqn Turkey Shoot at Raumai range – armed with 4 x Mk106 HDB (22m CEP), 4 x BDU33 SDB (22m CEP), 7 x 2.75 inch R/P (12m CEP) and 150 x 7.62mm bullets in 15 Deg gunnery (29 hits for 20%). I was placed 4th in the competition.
I had two flights on Friday 25 Feb 83 – the first was in NZ6374 for 0.8 hours as IP with Flt Lt Sandy Dawson doing Opcon HDB & SDB bombing, and R/P at Raumai. My second flight was solo in NZ6364 for 0.7 hours with the same weapons load as yesterday’s Turkey Shoot – 10 deg HDB (12m CEP), 20 deg SDB (10.5m CEP), 20 deg R/P (34m CEP), 15 Deg gunnery (20 Hits = 14%).
Three flights on Monday 28 Feb 83 competed my flying for the month – the first was as IP with Plt Off Dave Houghton in NZ6374 for 1.0 hour doing Opcon air-to-air cine on the towed target banner in D53, and the second was as IP with Plt Off Paul Muysert in NZ6372 for 1 hour doing air-to-air cine on the banner; the third was in NZ6375 for 1.3 hours with Plt Off Dave Houghton as pax, as 3 of 4, doing an anti-shipping strike on a French Frigate at sea some 30 nautical miles east of Castlepoint. My total flying for the month from the 31 sorties I flew was 27.7 hours, of which 21.3 were as IP.
March 1983Opcon, weapons Raumai, 182 Pilots course
I had two IP flights on Tuesday 1 Mar 83 to start the new month – the first was in NZ6374 for 0.8 hours with Plt Off Paul Muysert doing his first Opcon air-to-air live sortie with 100 x 7.62 bullets on the towed banner; and the second was with Plt Off Dave Houghton in NZ6374 for 0.9 hours doing his first air-to-air live sortie where, unfortunately, the gun jammed and stopped firing. On Wednesday 2 Mar 83, I flew as IP again with both Paul Muysert and Dave Houghton doing their second respective air-to-air live sorties:- Muysert in NZ6374 for 0.9 hours, and Houghton in NZ6375 for 0.7 hours.
Two more flights followed on Friday 4 Mar 83, the first of which was a Test Flight in NZ6367 for 1.5 hours with Flt Lt (Dr.) Sandy Dawson as pax – I recorded that a spin to the left was unsatisfactory, and the nose gear cockpit indicator had a red ‘unsafe’ light when the gear was down necessitating a ‘Pan’ call. My second flight that day was with Sqn Ldr I.G. (Iggy) Wood in NZ6369 for 1.0 hour doing air-to-air live where I recorded 3 hits on the banner.
Monday 7 Mar 83 brought another two flights, the first when solo in NZ6372 for 1.2 hours doing a ‘Staff Continuation’ sortie that included aeros, stalling, a TACAN letdown, a GCA, plus circuits: it was necessary for all pilots to have a ‘Cont’ sortie from time to time to brush up on the basics. My second flight was again a solo one, this time in NZ6376 for 1.0 hour, as 1 of 2, doing air-to-air live on the banner.
On Tuesday 8 Mar 83 I flew as IP with Plt Off Paul Muysert in NZ6376 for 1.3 hours doing Opcon low flying, and on Thursday 10 Mar 83 I flew solo in NZ6367 for 0.7 hours on an engine Test Flight. On Sunday 13 Mar 83, I flew NZ6372 to New Plymouth airfield taking 0.5 hours, with Corporal Lowe as pax, to position the SMR on static display for the Kingsford Smith airshow; I returned to Ohakea in 0.5 hours that day after the airshow in NZ6372 with Cpl Lowe as pax.
Monday 14 Mar 83 brought three flights, the first of which was solo in NZ6376, as 3 of 4, doing low level tactical formation and low flying practice for 1.0 hour. Next was a night IP sortie in NZ6372 for 1.1 hours with Off Cdt Bruce Gault of 182 Pilots Course doing a TACAN/PRA, followed by night circuits; and this was followed by a second night IP sortie where I flew with Plt Off Dave Houghton for 1.0 hour doing a night ‘Dual Check’ including a NDB letdown and a GCA. I flew with Off Cdt Bruce Gault in NZ6372 again at night on Tuesday 15 Mar 83 doing a GCA and more night circuits for 1.0 hour.
On Wednesday 16 Mar 83, I completed my annual Instrument Rating test (IRT), with Flt Lt Nick Pedley RAF as IRE, in NZ6376 for 1.0 hour in a flight that included a PRA, NDB and TACAN; at least some of which was flown on limited panel – that is with the main Artificial Horizon instrument blocked from view to me as the pilot, but not the IRE. For good reason, all pilots were required to demonstrate annually their proficiency to safely fly the aircraft on instruments without reference to the natural horizon – hence the IRT.
On Thursday 17 Mar 83, I flew as IP with Plt Off Paul Muysert in NZ6376, initially as 4 of 4, doing a Sim Strike in twilight, followed by a night Dual Check – the sortie duration was 1.7 hours, of which 0.7 was by night. I had two flights on Friday 18 Mar 83, the first was as 3 of 4 in NZ6376 for 1.2 hours, with Plt Off Paul Muysert as pax, doing a Lo Nav to live weapons (10 x 2.75 inch R/P and 8 x BDU33 SDB) at Waiouru. My second flight that day was in NZ6371 for 1.3 hours, with Plt Off Nick Osborne as pax, doing an anti-shipping strike on the frigate HMNZS Waikato plus another Australian vessel – we had targeting assistance from an 5 Sqn P3B Orion to the targets that were at sea some 80 nautical miles west of New Plymouth.
Monday 21 Mar 83 brought another two flights, the first of which was in NZ6364 for 1.4 hours, with Wg Cdr (Dr.) Alan White as pax, doing FAC controlled strikes at Waiouru with 8 x BDU33 SDB practice bombs; and the second flight was as IP in NZ6364 for 1.5 hours at night for Off Cdt Bruce Gault of 182 Course who flew to New Plymouth for a NDB letdown before returning to Ohakea for a TACA/PRA and more night circuits.
On Tuesday 22 Mar 83 I had another two flights, the first as IP in NZ6368 with Plt Off Paul Muysert doing an Opcon road reconnaissance followed by practice weapons at the Waiouru Danger area; and the second flight was with Wg Cdr (Dr.) Alan White again, this time in NZ6372 for 1.5 hours as ‘Bounce’ for another SMR formation followed by a NDB letdown and circuits at Wanganui. I had another two flights Wednesday 23 Mar 83, the first of which saw me as 1 of 4 in NZ6369 for 0.8 hours, with Plt Off Nick Osborne as pax, flying to Gisborne for a flypast over the city before landing (for PR purposes!) – with the media and public interest at Gisborne completed, we returned to Ohakea taking 0.8 hours later in the day.
Airshow ‘83 Whenuapai – On Thursday 24 Mar 83, as 1 of 4, I flew NZ6364 to Whenuapai in 1.0 hour, with Mr Ross McPherson as pax (Ross was Editor of ‘Wings’ Magazine). After refuelling at Whenuapai I flew NZ6364 for 1.2 hours leading my flight of four to carry out a practice Sim Strike in preparation for Airshow ’83 at Whenuapai. On Friday 25 Mar 83, I flew solo in NZ6371 for 1.2 hours doing aeros, some letdowns and circuits at Whenuapai. And on Saturday 26 Mar 83 I flew NZ6371 again for 1.2 hours, as 1 of 4, doing a Sim Strike at low level on Whenuapai airfield as part of Airshow ’83; after refuelling, as 1 of 4, I returned to Ohakea flying NZ6371 with Aircraftsman Richardson as pax, taking a 0.8 hours for the flight.
Monday 28 Mar 83 saw me in NZ6372 for 0.4 hours, with OC Armament Sqn, Sqn Ldr Pete Williamson as pax – we flew to nearby Raumai to try out the new weapons range, dropping bombs, firing R/P and guns. Pete had been responsible for setting up the new range targets and facilities. My final flight for the month was on Tuesday 29 Mar 83 where, as 3 of 4, I flew NZ6371 for 1.0 hour doing 2 v 2 ACM.
My Totals for the month were 33 sorties for 34 hours, 5.3 of which were night flying, and 11.1 of which were as IP. I now had 332 hours in the SMR of which 164.6 were as IP – and 3925.2 hours total flying all aircraft of which 1392.3 hours were as IP.
April 1983FHTs for 182 Pilots Course, and Ex Falcons Roost 17 at Kaitaia
Tuesday 5 Apr 83 saw my first flight for the month where I was solo in NZ6369, as 4 of 4, doing 2 v 2 ACM for 1.0 hour. I flew two sorties on Friday 8 Apr 83, both of them were engine test flights involving a climb to 35,000 feet – the first was in NZ6375 for 1.0 hour, and the second in NZ6362 for 1.0 hour.
The next three days saw me involved with six Final Handling Tests (FHTs) on members of 182 Pilots course: – Monday 11 Apr 83 saw two FHTs, the first of which was with Off Cdt Bruce Harre in NZ6368 for 1.4 hours; and the second was with Off Cdt Craig Tanner in NZ6361 for 1.4 hours. Tuesday 12 Apr 83 brought three FHTs – the first was with Off Cdt John Benfell in NZ6368 for 1.0 hour, the second with Off Cdt Bruce Gault in NZ6362 for 1.4 hours, and the third with Off Cdt Mark Delany in NZ6368 for 1.0 hour. Wednesday 13 Apr 83 saw me doing a re-test on Off Cdt Bruce Gault in NZ6368 for 1.0 hour – he passed second time around! With 182 Pilots Course complete and the Graduation parade over, we looked forward to our next deployment to a tented camp in Northland.
Ex Falcons Roost 17 – in early April, I had travelled to Kaitaia by 42 Sqn Andover with a small team of 14 Sqn personnel to talk to ‘the locals’ about what support we needed for our tented camp at Kaitaia airfield by some 120 air force personnel. Topics for discussion included Air Traffic Control, crash fire support, supplies of food and water, recreation activities and facilities, liquor supply for our camp bar etc.
On Monday 18 Apr 83 in NZ6361, with Plt Off Nick Osborne as pax, I led a flight of 14 Sqn SMRs to Kaitaia at Flight Level 150; however, before we could land at Kaitaia the weather turned ‘bad’ so we diverted to land at Whenuapai where we remained overnight – the flight time was a long 1.9 hours. On Tuesday 19 Apr 83, I flew NZ6361 from Whenuapai to Kaitaia with Plt Off Osborne as pax, taking 0.7 hours. There was no flying for me (and perhaps the rest of 14 Sqn?) on Wednesday 20 Apr 83 – my Kaitaia based brother Les reminded me in 2022 that it rained and rained at Kaitaia and the camp personnel purchased all the gumboots from the local farm supply company! I recall that the main runway was 4600 feet/1402m long, and the airfield was atop high ground (it was 270 feet above mean sea level); it often seemed that we were enveloped in low cloud or fog while just miles to the west flight conditions were much better.
On Thursday 21 Apr 83 my first flight of three that day was as IP in NZ6376 for 1.5 hours, as 1 of 4, with Sqn Ldr Scott Glendinning – we flew to southwards to Kaipara weapons range to drop 4 x Mk106 HDB before returning to the Kaitaia area to carry out FAC controlled simulated strikes for the FAC course that was underway. The FAC was airborne in a RNZAF 3 Sqn Sioux helicopter, and was based with us at the tented camp. A second flight on Thursday saw me as IP in NZ6365, as 2 of 2, for 1.4 hours giving Flt Lt ‘Merp’ Panther of 14 Sqn Training Flight some more dual instruction on Tactical Formations before we did FAC Course controlled strikes and an eventual recovery to Kaitaia airfield. My third and final flight on Thursday was in NZ6367 for 0.8 hours, as 3 of 4, doing 2 v 2 ACM, followed by a tailchase and recovery to Kaitaia airfield for a ‘buzz and break’ and landing.
On Thursday evening (I think it was Thursday!) we held our 14 Sqn Cocktail party on the airfield in our big Mess tent to entertain and thank those from the local community who helped and supported our Tented Camp. There were a great many of Northland’s characters at our party and we were later to be humbled and delighted at the number of invitations we received from the locals to host groups of our camp personnel for activities including fishing, hunting, boating, and BBQs. Friday 22 Apr 83 brought a solo flight for me, as 1 of 2, for 1.4 hours in NZ6372 – we flew a FAC Course support flight doing FAC controlled simulated strikes in the local Kaitaia area. Saturday 23 Apr 83 brought two solo flights for me doing FAC Course support – the first, as 1 of 2, in NZ6376 for 1.5 hours, and the second as 2 of 2 was also in NZ6376 for another 1.5 hours.
Open Day on Sunday 24 Apr 83 brought another two flights for me – as 1 of 8, both in NZ6376 for 1.0 hour each where we flew in support of the Open Day held on the airfield for the public. The sortie profile was a Sim Strike by 8 aircraft on the airfield, followed by an 8 aircraft close formation limited display, followed by a 5 aircraft tail chase overhead the airfield. The public saw displays by other RNZAF aircraft, as well as those from NZ Warbirds including Harvards of Trevor (TT) Bland and John Denton, (both former air force pilots) plus some local light aircraft.
Monday 25 Apr 83 was ANZAC Day and I flew NZ6371 for 1.0 hour, as 1 of 4, with RNZAF Reserve officer, Sqn Ldr TT Bland as pax – we did Low level Tactical Formations, a tailchase, and 4-aircaft flypasts at Te Kao, Houhora and Kaitaia for RSA Anzac Day parades.
I had 3 flights on Tuesday 26 Apr 83, the first as IP in NZ6369 for 1.6 hours with newly graduated Plt Off John Benfell doing a local Navex, plus ’bounce’ on a SMR formation. My second flight was solo in NZ6362 for 1.6 hours, as 1 of 4, for a ‘photo’ sortie to Cape Reinga, North Cape, and 90 Mile Beach – others in the formation were #2 Flt Lt Dennis Green RAAF in NZ6363, #3 Flt Lt Nick Pedley RAF in NZ6371, and, #4 Fg Off Dave Barham in NZ6367. My third flight that day was an IP one, as 1 of 2, in NZ6371 for 1.1 hours giving dual instruction to Flt Lt Mike Panther on BFM and ACM, plus a tailchase.
One flight followed for me on Wednesday 27 Apr 83, this time as IP and solo in NZ6365 for 1.0 hour, as 1 of 2, doing ACM with Flt Lt Mike Panther. Non-essential tents of our camp were progressively dismantled throughout the day, and camp personnel enjoyed a Hangi cooked meal that night, as well as a crayfish each kindly donated by the boss of Far North Fisheries.
With an early start to Thursday 28 Apr 83 at Kaitaia so as to complete ablutions, have a cold breakfast, and dismantle the remaining tents, the SMRs were soon airborne for the redeployment to Ohakea – I led a flight of 4 in NZ6363, with Plt Off John Benfell as pax, for the 1.6 hour flight to Ohakea and thus conclude Ex Falcons Roost 17. I had 25 sorties for the month totalling 30.8 hours, of which 16.2 were as IP.
Weapons Raumai, 583 course Opcon
On Monday 2 May 83, I flew NZ6373 to Wigram taking 1.0 hour, with Plt Off Mark Tapp as pax. At Wigram I participated, as a member of the Ohakea team, in the 1983 Inter-Base Golf tournament, followed by the Inter Service competition where I played as part of the RNZAF team. I returned to Ohakea on Wednesday 11 May 83 in NZ6375, with Plt Off Nick Osborne as pax, taking 1.0 hour for the flight.
Tuesday 12 May 83 brought two flights for me: the first was solo in NZ6372 for 0.8 hours doing weapons at Raumai – my 4 x Mk106 HDB from a 10 deg dive brought a somewhat rusty 17.5m CEP, and the 4 x BDU33 SDB from a 20 deg dive realised a good 9.5m CEP. My second flight was as IP in NZ6364 for 1.0 hour with Flt Lt Andy Russell of 183 FIC – we shared some bombing at Raumai, and my two Mk106 HDB had an average of 3.5m!
Friday 13 Apr 83 brought another two sorties: – the first was solo in NZ6363 for 0.6 hours, as 1 of 4, doing curvilinear and popups attacks at Raumai:- my 4 x Mk106 HDB bombs dropped individually from a 10 deg dive had a 16m CEP, and my 4 x BDU33 SDB from a 20 deg dive had a 14m CEP. In my second sortie in NZ6363, as 1 of 3, I managed to drop at least some MK106 practice bombs (for a 5.5m CEP) before a fire broke out on the ground causing the range to be closed, and so my sortie was aborted after 0.4 hours.
Monday 16 May 83 brought another two flights: the first was solo in NZ6363 for 1.0 hours doing a busy weapons sortie at Raumai: – 4 x Mk106 HDB in 10 Deg prolife realised an 8.5m CEP, 4 x BDU33 SDB from 20 Deg dive showed no scores for some reason, 6 x 2.75 inch R/P a 23m CEP, and my guns jammed so there was no score. My second sortie was also solo in NZ6363, this time for 0.7 hours doing another busy weapons flight at Raumai – 10 deg HDB had a CEP of 5m, 20 deg SDB had 16m, 7 x 2.75 inch R/P from 20 deg had 21m, and 15 Deg gunnery 72% (Yes 72%!!). Wow.
Tuesday 17 May 83 in NZ6362 saw another solo flight for 0.6 hours at Raumai – 10 deg HDB for 3.5m CEP, 20 deg SDB for 16m CEP, 20 deg R/P 27m CEP, and 15 deg gunnery 23%.
Wednesday 18 May 83 saw another two solo flights:- the first was in NZ6376 for 1.4 hours doing FAC strikes at Waiouru, but there was no scoring for my 4 x Mk106 or 4 X BDU33 practice bombs – I then flew to Raumai to fire the guns scoring 48% from a 15 deg dive. My second flight was in NZ6362 for 0.7 hours doing weapons at Raumai – 4 x MK106 (10m CEP), 4 x BDU33 (16.5m CEP), 7 x 2.75 R/P (8m CEP), 200 x 7.62 gunnery (63%).
I had two solo weapons flights at Raumai on Thursday 19 May 83 – the first in NZ6363 for 0.4 hours where I managed only to fire 200 x 7.62mm guns (scoring 57%), but the rockets did not fire. My second flight was in NZ6372 for 0.8 hours where I fired 4 x 2.75in R/P (11m CEP) and 3 x popup deliveries to fire a single R/P on each pass scoring 28m/4 o’clock, 46m/5 and 7m/8, but this time no guns fired.
On Monday 23 May 83 583 Opcon started and I flew as IP with Plt Off John Benfell, as 2 of 2, in NZ6371 for 1.0 hour doing BFM 1 – short range manoeuvres; a second flight that day saw me solo as IP in NZ6362, as 1 of 2, for 1.0 hour providing lead support for John Benfell’s BFM 2 solo sortie.
Wednesday 25 May 83 saw me as IP in NZ6369 for 1.0 hour, as 1 of 2, giving instruction to Plt Off John Benfell of 583 Opcon for his BFM 3 sortie incorporating longer range manoeuvres; and on Friday 27 May 83, l flew NZ6363 for 1.0 hour, as 1 of 2, providing lead support for John Benfell’s BFM 4 solo sortie. A second sortie on Friday saw me in NZ6363, as 3 of 4, for 0.7 hours doing weapons on a towed target at sea in Danger Area 53 – we dropped 4 x Mk106 and 4 x BDU33 practice bombs from each aircraft against the towed target.
My final flight for the month was as IP on Monday 30 May in NZ6362 for 1.0 hour with Plt Off John Benfell giving him instruction on BFM 5 ‘defensive manoeuvres’. For the month of May I recorded 19 sorties for 16.1 hours, of which 5 hours was as IP.
June 1983My final flight in SMR, and posting from CO 14 Sqn
Thursday 2 Jun 83 saw me as IP in NZ6365 for 1.1 hours with Off Cdt Bruce Craies of 582 Pilots course doing Instrument Flying sortie #6 including a TACAN and a GCA. A second flight on Thursday was as IP with Plt Off John Benfell in NZ6365 for 1.0 hour doing Opcon ACM 1: 1 v 2 – initial moves.
Friday 3 Jun 83 saw my last two flights in the SMR: – the first sortie was solo for me as IP in NZ6367 for 1.0 hour, as 1 of 3, doing ACM 2, which was 1 v 2 for Plt Off John Benfell’s Opcon. And my final flight in a SMR was in NZ6367 for 1.0 hour, as 1 of 2, doing 2 v 4 ACM. For the month of June I flew four sorties for 4.1 hours, 3.1 of which were as IP. I completed my posting as CO 14 Sqn with 383 hours on the SMR, of which 188.9 hours were as IP. I now had a total of 3976.2 hours on all types, of which 1416.6 were as IP.
On my Posting from CO 14 Sqn, Gp Capt Stewart Boys AFC, Base Commander Ohakea, recorded in my Pilots Logbook Periodic Assessment for the period 2 Aug 82 to 06 June 83: Above Average in Pure Flying, Above Average in the Strike/Training role, and he commented: An enthusiastic, spirited and talented pilot; Sqn Ldr Barclay now ends an exceptionally good tour as CO 14 Sqn. Under his command the unit comfortably achieved all of its tasks and very high standards in flying discipline and training have been maintained.
Based on what I had learned on my USAF exchange posting on the F4 Phantom, I felt satisfied I had introduced in the air-to-air arena a much better structured approach to teaching air combat techniques with new and detailed classroom academic lectures, followed by a progressive ‘building block’ approach to learning that followed a ‘crawl-walk-run’ method – as in learning the basics of 1v1 BFM, before progressing to 1v2 and 2v2 ACM, then 2 v 4 ACT and some DACT against A4 Skyhawks. In the air-to-ground arena, I had introduced the ‘popup’ and curvilinear profiles to be used in high-threat SAM situations, as well as a new focus on more weapons sorties per pilot rather than fewer number of longer duration ‘navex-type’ of sorties. And by encouraging all parties to work hard to resolve the chronic initial shortage of SMRs on the 14 Sqn flightline, we had been able to achieve the dual task of simultaneously supporting both Training and Op Flight sortie-count requirements.
Having completed my tour as CO 14 Sqn I was posted in June 1983 to the six-month long to No 24 Command and Staff College course at RNZAF Auckland – Whenuapai airfield, completing the course on 9 Dec 83, before I was posted to be CO 75 (Skyhawk) Sqn.
Addendum – SMR Fatigue – Some two years later, in about 1985, I spoke with Sqn Ldr Des Ashton who at that time was the Staff Officer responsible for aircraft/airframe structural and fatigue matters in the Engineering Directorate in Air Staff, Wellington. Des said he had noted for some reason in the early 1980s, airframe fatigue in the Strikemaster fleet took a significant upward jump on the fleet fatigue graph, and he did not know why. I suggested to Des the fatigue issue could well have been coincidental with my arrival as CO 14 Sqn in early 1982 when I introduced junior Op Flt pilots to more weapons training, including higher ‘g’ popup weapons attacks, as well as a more structured approach to air combat training.
I said I had had concerns about the overall lack of quality learning objectives achieved in many sorties; it seemed to me there was an apparent prime focus at that time of just accumulating flying hours for pilots rather than focusing on the quality achieved in each mission. So, rather than doing flights of longer duration, such as ‘Navex’ sorties (with lower airframe fatigue), some of which may well have also gone to the weapons range, I was keen to have more sorties of shorter duration that went straight to the nearby weapons range at Raumai, and thus provide ‘more quality in each flying hour’ for each Op Flight pilot; and it was the same for air combat training: less of the ‘navex’ flying with a purpose to accumulate flying hours, and more of the higher training quality in BFM/ACM/DACT sorties. With the benefit of hindsight, this change in focus meant a higher airframe fatigue count per unit flying hour. Des remarked to the effect that some aircraft in SMR fleet were now nearing the limit of their design fatigue life, such that six replacement wing sets would soon be ordered from BAC and when fitted would prolong the service life of the SMR fleet while a new advanced jet trainer aircraft was being considered. New wings were fitted to NZ6361, 62, 64, 69, 71 and 72. The SMR fleet was subsequently retired in 1993 when the Aermacchi MB339CB came into RNZAF service, and an excellent fleet management and individual airframe fatigue monitoring regime was introduced for each Macchi, based on what we had learned from operating the SMR fleet.