Home' Air Force News : December 9th 2010 Contents LAC Aaron Curran
WITH the retirement of the
F-111, the city of Ipswich has
lost its unofficial mascot and
no one is sadder than its lively
mayor, Cr Paul Pisasale.
Cr Pisasale is a self-con-
fessed 'tragic' when it comes to
the mighty swing wing that has
graced the skies above Ipswich
for nearly 40 years.
"Some people are golf or
rugby league tragics -- I am an
F-111 tragic," he said.
"In 2004 I had the honour
of going for a ride in an F-111
and all I remember is being told
'don't touch anything'."
He said it was one of the
most exciting, yet terrifying
things that has happened to
him. He discovered that in his
job he can afford to make a mis-
take -- in the F-111 you can't.
"I also had the honour of
going in the Super Hornet after
it arrived," Cr Pisasale said.
"But the biggest honour was
reserved for our city when 202
landed -- it was called The City
He said since 1973 Ipswich
had been proud to have had
the honour of looking after the
F-111. "The pilots, crews and
their families have been, and
always will be a part of our com-
munity," he said.
"We know what it is like to
be on deployment and to feel
the hardships associated with
that and the postings. During
the belly landing in 2006 when
the aircraft was circling the city,
everyone was anxious. It was
one of those dates that sticks in
He said every time an F-111
An F-111 tragic
and proud of it
December 9, 2010
F-111 FAREWELL SPECIAL
Special link for bomber brothers
Nothing like a
LAC Aaron Curran
THERE are many individual
people and families with stories
about their association with the
F-111 and one great example
is that of the Thomas family.
WOFF Paul Thomas from
26SQN and his brothers,
SQNLDR Ken, SGT Matt,
Garth (SGT ret'd) and their late
father WOFF Joe, have collec-
tively had involvement with the
aircraft for 42 years.
It started with Joe who
joined the RAAF in 1953 as
an engine fitter and was on
the historic flight from Canada
LAC Aaron Curran
SINCE 1948, 1 and 6SQNs have been
working side-by-side at RAAF Base Am-
berley and, like two competing brothers,
the rivalry has been healthy and strong.
XO 82WG WGCDR Robert Denney said
during the life of the F-111, 1SQN's role
was predominantly strike missions.
"Upon arrival, the aircraft were a land
strike platform, however in the late 1970s,
they were also used for maritime strike,"
"6SQN was predominantly a training
squadron over that period, converting stu-
dent pilots and navigators onto the F-111.
Following the modification of four aircraft
for reconnaissance they were based at
6SQN until the transfer of 'recce' to 1SQN
in the late 1990s."
He said after the F-111, the roles of the
squadrons would remain similar to that
in the past. 1SQN will be the operational
squadron, although with an increased air-
to-air focus that comes with the multi-role
capability of the Super Hornet.
"1SQN will continue to operate in the
land and maritime strike roles as well as
the close air support role," he said.
"6SQN will remain as the training
squadron, receiving graduate pilots and
air combat officers from Hawk training
and converting them onto the Super
Hornet and upgrading them to combat
He said graduates would normally do a
six-month operational conversion course
at 6SQN consisting of ground academics
followed by five months of flying training.
The last month of the course was typi-
cally a deployment to Darwin, Tindal or
Townsville to learn deployed operations as
well as operations involving the employ-
ment of high explosive weapons.
"The two squadrons generally worked
closely together during the F-111 times,"
WGCDR Denney said.
"With the ageing of the F-111 fleet,
closer work arrangements were required
to ensure flyable aircraft have been avail-
able where they were most needed."
He said the competition between them
was about as much competition as you
would expect from "an alpha-male domi-
nated group of highly motivated, high-
"There has always been considerable
competition between the squadrons,
although it has mostly occurred in a good
nature," he said.
"The most interesting part of the
rivalry is watching someone being pro
one squadron one day, to be posted to the
other squadron the following week and
quickly reverse their opinion. It seems a
flew over the city the residents
felt proud and were going to
miss it not being in the sky.
"At times I felt other may-
ors I have spoken to who host
Defence didn't understand; they
just heard the noise, but didn't
see the people.
"We didn't call it noise; we
called it the sound of freedom,"
He was over the moon that
two F-111s were to be kept
there and wants to put pictures
of them on a welcome sign to
"This year, people have
been telling me that they have
seen the last dump and burn
here and there and I reckon it
has had more comebacks than
Johnny Farnham," he said.
"Every time the F-111 went
and did Riverfire over Brisbane,
the people of Ipswich said 'we
are lending you our plane'."
He said the city has now
thrown all its support behind
the Super Hornet and with the
closing of one chapter, it is the
opening of another.
"We have a motto here in
Ipswich: If you don't like the
noise, shift," Cr Pisasale said.
"Goodbye, Pig; we are gonna
quickly reverse their opinion. It seems a
bit strange to an outsider, but it is what
with the first Caribous and later
served in Vietnam.
"Dad's first involvement with
the F-111 was with the 3AD
F-111 Engine Section in 1968,
although the aircraft didn't
arrive until 1973.
"For our family the F-111
played a major part in our
childhood and RAAF careers,
starting with Dad being posted
to Amberley at the beginning of
the aircraft's service and end-
ing with our youngest brother
Matt being there at the end."
Of the four brothers, three
joined as engine fitters and Ken
joined as a navigator in 1977.
In 1979, Joe tragically died
at the age of 42. "Dad did not
get to see the legacy he had
started," Paul said.
"Ironically, our family involve-
ment with the jets totals 42
years. In some way, to us at
least, the retirement of the
F-111 will truly be the end of
You could write a book on
the Thomas brothers' recol-
lections and experiences with
the Pig, but they do all have a
common theme -- childhood
"It was funny in class at
Amberley Primary because
those who grew up with it would
be almost oblivious to the
noise," Matt said. "However the
new students would struggle to
hear the teacher."
Ken's infatuation with the
F-111 led to him designing and
making a scale balsa wood
model including swing wings.
"I still have it today," Ken
said. "I said to my mates at the
time 'I'm going to fly them one
day' and of course I was lucky
enough to do that five years
Matt said the F-111 had
provided common ground for
discussion among the brothers
at various times in their lives.
"I am sure this will continue
into the future," he said.
LOVING IT: One of the F-111's
biggest fans, Ipswich Mayor
Councillor Paul Pisasale, before
his flight in a jet at RAAF Base
Amberley in 2004.
Photo: CPL David Gibbs
TEAMWORK: 1 and 6SQN have
been working together to operate
the F-111 since the aircraft arrived in
Photo: LAC Aaron Curran
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