Little did John Douglas, AKA Examiner of Airmen, know when he left school to work on his father’s dairy farm, that one day he would celebrate 27,000 hours of flying and most of that, in another country.
John Douglas (JD) grew up on a farm on the shores of a harbour overlooking Auckland City and the international airport. After completing a building apprenticeship, he went on to combine farming, building houses and playing rugby.
A school friend then took him for a fly in a brand new Victa and he was hooked. The year was late 1965.
A year later, JD had completed a PPL and CPL, followed by an Instructor Rating, with no intention of going full time flying. That changed when David, his South African instructor took up a job in Narrogin, WA and put extreme pressure on JD to join him in the ‘State of Excitement’, which he eventually did.
After six months, David left Narrogin to start his own business in Port Hedland and so JD had to get stuck in and build the Narrogin Flying Club into the largest rural training organisation in Australia. With instructors based in Narrogin and Northam and servicing 14 satellite centres from Albany to Perenjori and east to Hyden and Merredin, the club was recording more hours annually than any businesses at Jandakot. Pilots came from far and wide to fly Tiger Moths, Chipmunks, Austers, Bonanzas, along with Piper and Cessna aircraft.
In 1973, RACWA was doing it tough with membership and flying hours low and their viability threatened. They saw what was happening at Narrogin and put a lot of pressure on JD to come to Jandakot and take the role of CFI/Manager. He was happy in the country and did not think a move to the city was a good idea. He did however, make the move and with a willing team, turned RACWA’s fortunes around inside of 12 months with a fleet restructure, new aircraft, expanded operations and a seven day a week commitment, which saw RACWA’s future blossom. Club membership grew eventually to a record of 2,000 members with annual flying exceeding 36,000 hours, making RACWA one of the largest organisations of its kind in the world.
JD’s career highlights include:
• Air Race Director of the famous Great Western Air races of the 70’s and 80’s, with over 90 aircraft participating.
• The 1976 Perth to Sydney Air Race.
• The 1983 Perth to Broome Centennial Air Race.
• The 1988 GE Around Australia Air Race.
• Participation as a formation and aerobatic pilot at most of the major flying events in the state, including the RAAF Airshows.
• Many national and international awards, including an OAM for services to aviation.
• 46 years with RACWA, 35 as General Manager and…..27,000 fabulous hours in the air!
On behalf of the Club and the many, many pilots who have been trained by JD, I would like to congratulate him on this epic milestone. Not many pilots ever exceed the 25,000 flying hours, and those that do, generally have most of these hours flown at flight levels by George, the autopilot. For JD to have accumulated 27,000 hours of mainly instructional flying is indeed an exceptional achievement. It would be very interesting to calculate the number of landings that John has recorded – this would indeed be very close to a world record!
JD’s positive attitude to life (and aviation) has had an impact on so many students that were, at times during their training, doubting their decision to learn to fly. JD’s ability to bring out the best in staff and students has greatly benefited the aviation industry. The high standards he sets has ensured the Club is recognised as producing safe, well trained pilots. We are very fortunate to have JD at the helm of our instructor training school to make sure we continue to maintain these high standards.