Pilot flies family flag
Flying Officer James Bailey, who is deployed to the Middle East, will be thinking about the two people who inspired him to join the Royal Australian Air Force, his father and grandfather, this Father’s Day.
His career as an E-7A Wedgetail pilot was inspired by father, Peter, and two-war veteran grandfather, Les ‘Bill’ Bailey.
“Dad was a pilot in the RAAF for a short time,” Flying Officer Bailey said.
“He was on the 97 Pilots Course and the final Winjeel course, and was one of three to complete the 98 Pilots Course on the CT4 which was an evaluation of the new aircraft.
“He then went on to fly the Macchi at No. 2 Flight Training School (2FTS) where he earnt his wings.
“Shortly after finishing 2FTS he blew his ear drum flying and that was unfortunately the end of his time in the RAAF.
“Grandad was in the Royal Navy during World War II.
“He was a Navigator and Telegraphist Air Gunner. He flew on the Swordfish in the defence of Malta, and Barracudas and the Westland Lysander during his flying career.”
After the war the Bailey family migrated to Australia. ‘Bill’ joined the Royal Australian Navy and was stationed in Nowra, flying in the Fairy Firefly from HMAS Sydney.
“On HMAS Sydney he went off to serve in the Vietnam War,” Flying Officer Bailey said.
“Unfortunately Grandad passed away in 2016, just after I got back from RAAF flight screening.
“I hadn’t told him I was in the process of joining the RAAF, as I wanted to wait until I got the official acceptance first before saying anything.
“So I never did get to tell him I made it in. Looking back I wish I had said something. I know he would have been proud.”
After attending high school on the New South Wales South Coast, Flying Officer Bailey completed an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer apprenticeship and then worked on aircraft and helicopters for Raytheon.
“I did a two-week trip around Australia with two choppers,” Flying Officer Bailey said.
“When we were parked at Pearce in Western Australia I saw all the PC-9s lined up and it just struck me that I wanted to have a crack at flying.
“I know Dad’s very proud I’m flying the E-7 today.
“There were plenty of tough times during training, so it was nice to be able to give Dad a call and he’d say, ‘I get it, I’ve been there, just keep doing what you’re doing’.”
Flying Officer Bailey said that while he couldn’t be with his Dad on Father’s Day, he would be thinking of him and his grandfather.
“I’ll definitely be thinking of them both,” he said.
“It will be good to get home and take Dad for a fly over Currarong, NSW, where Grandad’s ashes are scattered and also check out the surf.”