Ansett Revisited by Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Saturday, September 16, 2017



 Ansett Revisited.


By Owen Zupp


Unbelievably, sixteen years have passed since Ansett Australia closed both its doors and a significant chapter in Australian aviation history. Yet beneath the headlines and industry fallout, the collapse of the airline had a very real personal toll. The individual experiences that followed ranged from suicide to success, but universally there was some degree of scar tissue.


The End.

The demise of Ansett Australia was unfortunately a little like watching a train wreck in slow motion. It was approaching ever closer and everyone was just hoping that the signal would switch from red to green; but it didn’t. Much has been written about the Air New Zealand factor, ageing fleets and News Limited’s apparent disinterest in the airline industry. You know, the old “great airline, lousy business” quote.


From the inside, the issues seemed quite apparent to many of the staff and yet the train continued to rattle along. Unfortunately, for staff much of the ‘inside information’ was to be gleaned from the Financial Review, rather than official company communiqués and the news was rarely good. In the final weeks, you would walk through the terminal with the newsagent billboards constantly reminding you of the airline’s dilemma and imminent collapse. It took a degree of discipline and a healthy sense of humour to maintain the focus on flying the aeroplane and preserve safety as the top priority amidst the media barrage. Yet for me, the most telling report did come from the company in the form of a memo advising crews that meals would no longer be provided on board the aeroplane. We were reminded to not only maintain an adequate level of sustenance while on duty, but to avoid delaying flights if we stopped for take-away food in the terminal. Actually, when I think about it, a sense of humour was mandatory.


The phone rang in the middle of the night on September 11th and I switched on the television to witness the surreal events unfolding in New York. The sight of Boeing airliners plunging into skyscrapers like daggers and the collapsing goliaths of the Twin Towers are images that will remain with us all forever. My wife and I had been at the top of those towers only weeks before and my thoughts flashed immediately to the character-filled lady that had sold me a donut; what was her fate? Closer to home I knew that this meant the end for Ansett.


Three days later I was scheduled for an early morning start to crew the first service of the day, Flight One to Melbourne. The news the previous evening had not been good as the TV related the airline’s impending death. In the wee hours, I called the crewing officers to verify the company’s ongoing existence and was advised the operations were normal. However, when I stood outside the Ansett terminal at Sydney, unable to open the automatic doors, I sensed that all was not right. Standing with stranded passengers, I was embarrassingly directed to Valet Parking by a security guard on the other side of the glass, where I accessed the terminal by the back door. I was escorted to the crew room and emptied my pigeon hole of mail before being escorted off the premises once again. There were no water cannons from fire trucks or final parking of the brakes for Ansett pilots; just an ignominious administrative process.


Across the network, the scene was played out in varying forms. I was fortunately stranded in my home base, but for hundreds they were abandoned in ports near and far. There were tales of generosity by hire car companies that ferried crews free of charge while conversely others were being bailed up in foyers by hotel staff demanding the payment of room tariffs. Most disturbingly, some received the news from the company in flight by ACARS and had to fly on knowing that they were now unemployed. By whichever means the word was received, it was not good.


Where to from here?

The immediate fallout from the collapse was really a blend of false hope and confusion. Ansett Mk. II was mooted as an option, but the reality was that the odds were always stacked against it. Employees gathered together in mutual consolation and endeavoured to call information ‘hot-lines’ that were always engaged. Resumes and log books were hurriedly updated and job applications were already underway.


For some pilots, the limbo was filled by the offer of contract work by other airlines and this covered the breach in the short term, yet unbelievably some Ansett management moved to block this process claiming that the pilots were still employed by the now defunct entity. Similarly, some refused to provide references to their pilots who now faced a very uncertain future. They were days of chaos and the individuals were best advised to carve their own path and see if anything positive emerged from the ruins; waiting for that as a lone hope was fraught with frustration.


To this backdrop there were very sad instances of suicide. I don’t know if it can necessarily be claimed that they were the direct result of the airline’s failure, but undoubtedly the growing confusion and pressure would not have helped anyone in a fragile state of mind. Personally, when I was offered a contract position, I rang a manager directly to discuss my options. I received a very disinterested response which included, “I’ve never heard of you” and “Are you new?” An interesting answer considering that I’d been with the company for the best part of a decade and Ansett hadn’t recruited for many years. More to the point, I have reflected how such an inept, callous reply would have affected me if I was teetering on the brink.


Amidst the disarray, pilots scattered far and wide. Ansett had not required its pilots to necessarily hold a pass in Year 12 Physics and this proved a bizarre stumbling block for many highly experienced pilots seeking employment elsewhere. In the early days, many migrated abroad by fleet; 737 pilots to New Zealand, the UK and Japan and 767 pilots to Europe, while the Ansett Mark II carrot was dangled for the Airbus A320 crews. Meanwhile, the aircraft started disappearing almost overnight, returned to lessors or ferried to Melbourne where they awaited sale or the scrapper’s guillotine.


Ultimately, the company entered administration under the mantle of Mentha and Korda. Financial uncertainty was the major element of many employees’ distress and the wait to sell of assets was destined to be a slow process. There was some initial relief provided by the Federal Government in covering the eight weeks redundancy pay that was owed to employees. This was made available through a loan which was subsequently repaid by the travelling public in the form of a “ticket levy”. However, accusations continue that the ticket levy was prolonged unnecessarily and ultimately raised far more money than the employees ever saw.


For the employees who were owed over $750 million in entitlements, the administrator’s payments have continued to trickle in over the last ten years, but budgeting on one cent of this money was never really an option. The final superannuation and entitlement payments are now looming and will represent a return of 95 cents in the dollar, which is a good effort in terms of collapsed companies. Even so, many employees never regained the career footing they once held and their family and financial lives were changed forever.




The Road Less Travelled.

The demise of Ansett forced the pilot body to face the reality that an airline job in Australia was no longer necessarily a job for life. In 2001, this was quite a mindset to overcome and the speed with which many adapted is a critical lesson in coping with such a setback.


For many, their careers have flourished in the wake of Ansett. They have flown aircraft they never would have operated and seen ports they would never have previously imagined. While many set sail for foreign shores, a good number simply side-stepped to other Australian carriers. Some have risen to hold Chief Pilot positions with major airlines, while others have bounced back to managerial roles of a training, technical, or developmental nature. A few also joined the ATSB and CASA in Flight Operations roles and now cast a watchful eye over the industry. Others have left aviation altogether and pursued careers as varied as property developers and university lecturers to successful coffee chain owners. There was indeed life after Ansett.


The Comfort Zone.


Unfortunately, not all of the employees have shared the fruitful gains of their former workmates. For many, they were unable to subsequently find gainful employment in aviation, while others who did watched their careers stall or go backwards. The shift to foreign soil was advantageous for some, but for others the move or the nomadic nature of contract flying and commuting proved wearing on the family environment. A large number have found their way home to Australia through the airlines that have been born in the aftermath of Ansett.


Whichever path was chosen or thrust upon the Ansett employees, there were some core, unassailable truths learnt with devastating effect. Primarily, that in the modern world, very little is forever. Airline employees like their corporate cousins are now critically susceptible to the ebb and flow of global economies and re-structuring. Airlines in Australia were once a ‘job for life’, but that falsehood came crashing down around our ears in 2001. It was a lesson that most other professions, and several American airlines, had learnt in the preceding decades. Those employees saw a number of career changes on their horizon and learnt to plan a fall-back position. Many Ansett employees have never felt secure, or expected security, in their employment ever since. This is part of their legacy and also one of their scars.


This insecurity need not be a negative as evidenced by the array of staff that has gone onto bigger and better things. In many instances, employees were forced off the treadmill and out of their comfort zone and it actually proved to have a positive effect on their life, if not necessarily their career. Additionally, as other professions already knew, the pursuit of ongoing education is an insurance policy and an escape clause should things go to the wall once again. I realised this very early on after the collapse when a Centrelink consultant advised me that I was “highly skilled, but totally unemployable”. My past life as a Paramedic was far more relevant to the real world than the thousands of hours of flight experience I had accrued, so I headed off to university to attain some recognised qualifications.


Ansett Revisited.

Anyone who lived through the Ansett collapse was changed in some way; whether it was a true watershed moment, or simply the infusion of some healthy suspicion. Regardless, things had definitely not gone to plan, so some re-adjustments on the run were required by one and all.


Personally, I was very fortunate. My line in the sand was to fly professionally and remain in the family home we had built. I have intentionally accumulated qualifications independent of my flying and created a buffer zone for my career, but harbour no degree of complacency about future job security. Equally, I recognise that not all of my fellow Ansett pilots have been so lucky, while others have blown me out of the water in the career stakes. Such is the nature of any major upheaval on a workforce.


What Ansett’s passing reinforced is one’s world can change significantly overnight. Childhood aspirations can be dashed and life’s plans changed irreversibly by elements that are effectively out of the individual’s hands. A confronting concept for pilot’s who live in a world of relative order and planning. Nor does this mean that it must always be a negative experience, but it should be a scenario considered just as one caters for an alternate airport.


The aviation climate in Australia has changed incredibly over the last decade, from 9/11 to low cost carriers and beyond. The human face of that change is often glossed over, but for former Ansett employees there will always be a level of wariness borne of experience. If asked, would they wish to go through it all again? Definitely not! Are they proud to have been associated with a great airline, but a lousy business? Absolutely!





'Without Precedent' Behind-the-Scenes. The Japanese Water Bottle.

Owen Zupp - Friday, August 25, 2017

Hi All,

Here is the next 'behind-the-scenes' video on my YouTube channel.

In this video I examine the Japanese water bottle featured in 'Without Precedent' and the unique engraving Phil made while serving as a commando in New Guinea.





A New Video Series.

Owen Zupp - Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hi All,

In response to numerous messages and questions, I have started a video series on YouTube. My kids assure me that this is the best way to communicate in the 21st Century. :-)

In these videos I will be examining various 'artefacts' from 'Without Precedent' and offering a behind-the-scenes look at my next book as it develops.

I hope you enjoy the videos. Here is the first one featuring Phil Zupp's shattered flying goggles from that eventful mission on the 6th February 1952.





Dad, sometimes I Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Monday, July 31, 2017




Having heard yet another tale from my childhood, my son has recently taken to collecting discarded aluminium cans to make some pocket money. Yesterday, I took him ‘can hunting’ and as we drove in our car, he asked me a simple question, “If you had a wish dad, what would it be?” I gave some irrelevant answer stemming from my concentration divided between the road and that nagging list that bubbles in the back of the mind. For my son, there was no such lack of clarity.

“I wish I could bring grandad back to life.”

I felt negligent that I hadn’t given his enquiry due thought, but I also felt pride that he had obviously been contemplating the question in a manner that defied his years. Later that morning, we wandered around a fete at our local sports ground. He clambered over inflatable obstacle courses and attempted to catch the fake ‘snow’ that was being generated to mark Christmas in July, as one would expect a young lad to do.




However, the fete’s deeper purpose was to raise awareness of the Cancer Council and its sterling work. Given his earlier question, I explained to my son that it was cancer that had taken his grandad. Again, I could see his young mind at work.

“Dad, I’m going to give my can money to the Cancer Council. They need it more than me.”

These are the moments that a father treasures.

I sometimes wonder what my dad would think about how my life has turned out – who I’ve become, what I’ve done and where I’ve been. I know that he would have adored the girl that I married and the kids we share. Still, sometimes I find myself pondering the thought.

And then, through a simple act or a word from one of our children, I know he is not far away at all. He lives on in their smiles, their laughter, their honesty and their cheeky grin.

Rest in peace Dad. It’s been 26 years today.




Remembering Pearl Harbor by Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, July 11, 2017



In writing ‘Without Precedent’, I have become acutely aware of how the sacrifice of our servicemen can be forgotten if history is not preserved. By contrast, the story of Pearl Harbor is well known. Through all available mediums, the events of December 7th, 1941 have been revisited, analysed and reported in just about every way imaginable. Yet, to visit the site of that ‘day of infamy’ conveys emotions and thoughts that no amount of special effects will ever capture.


And on that hallowed soil the story of sacrifice is both respected and preserved through a range of memorials and museums. Of these, without argument, the most emotive is the USS Arizona. Arching across the sunken vessel, the pure white monument bears the names of those lost on that day. Beneath the visitors’ feet lies the grave of so many men and one cannot help but feel the loss and sense the sorrow as oil still slips to the surface after more than 75 years. Some say they are the sailors’ tears and who am I to disagree.



Elsewhere, one can wander through museums that recount the day through imagery, anecdotes and artefacts. The USS Bowfish permits a first-hand glimpse into the life of a submariner as the mammoth USS Missouri still stands guard over the sunken Arizona. Visitors can walk upon her historic decks. Decks that have seen a life stretching from just beyond World War One to the conflict in Vietnam. Decks that have survived the ferocious impact of a failed Kamikaze attack and hosted the solemnity of the final surrender signing in Tokyo Bay at the close of the Second World War. If only those decks could speak.


On Ford Island, the orange and white candy-striped tower stands, just as it did on that fateful day when the nearby hangars were strafed and aircraft were set ablaze. Those hangars still carry the bullet holes, but within their walls the story has survived through the Pacific Aviation Museum. A range of aircraft of friend and foe tell the story, not just of Pearl Harbor, but of the Pacific air war. Massive murals and maps detail the conflict and at every turn another first-hand account is related. Some are of veterans and others are of civilian pilots that were caught aloft that day - including the famed Cornelia Fort. Another famed aviatrix, Amelia Earhart, has ties to the Hawaiian Island and her story is also wonderfully presented.


For children young and old, a ‘simulator experience’ is available, but for those anxious to see more real aircraft, there is another hangar full of exhibits. Warbirds young and old, propeller and jet, across numerous conflicts now stand guard in the safety of this historic building. From time to time a veteran sits quietly - a gentleman who was there that fateful day. His words span the divide between a world at war and grasp the attention of all that pause to listen.


Yes, this is all hallowed ground. It calls for one to stop and pause. With eyes closed, imagine the deafening noise, the chaos and the tragedy. And then silently consider the sacrifice with the reverence it deserves. Pearl Harbor is not alone in the world as a site of war’s tragedy and a place to pay tribute, but it is very special in the varied means that it conveys its message. I have been there before and I shall go again. To Pause. To remember.


Lest We Forget.



Read ‘Just Another Flight’ by clicking here.

Just another Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Sunday, July 09, 2017



Just another flight. In the wee hours and across the continent. And yet in those hours there were so many sights to be seen as the near full moon illuminated the sky and gave form to the landscape below.


Although the jet stream of wind was blowing at nearly 200 miles per hour in its core, the air was as smooth as glass. Only the vector on the instrument display and the readout of speed over the ground gave any indication of the invisible torrent outside. Then there was a light, bright and white at first, and holding steady ahead and to the right. Glancing at the display again, the Traffic Collision and Avoidance system, or TCAS, did not indicate the presence of another aircraft and yet there it was, growing brighter and larger in the windscreen.


Just as a heightened state of readiness began to pervade the flight deck, the light began to slide down the right-hand side of the aircraft at a distance that was difficult to gauge, but not too close at hand. It now tinged red and began to display a wispy tail behind it like a supersonic, blazing tadpole. A meteor? Space junk? Whichever it was, its 20 seconds of spectacular glory began to fade until it was a mere rust-coloured pin-prick. And then it was gone.


Under that same moon, just a little older, another blinking light lay ahead. This time it was Venus announcing the day was very near as the distant lights of the coast began to compete with the burgeoning dawn. The moon in its glory was now behind us as a soft orange crescent arced along the horizon ahead. Venus rose high and her blinking steadied to a noble planetary gaze, her job now done.


As the shore slipped beneath the belly, the sun was yet to break cover, but its light was still bold enough to cast shadows from the ranges that lay just inland. The moon, still bold, had taken on tiger stripes as thin ribbons of cloud contrasted with its golden glow. Over water, no waves were breaking, only a large vessel spewing its own arcing fountain created even a ripple.


With the runway ahead and cleared to land, the control tower advised that the wind was calm - probably because 'magically still' is not standard phraseology in the world of aviation. The wheels squeaked onto the runway, apologising for disrupting nature’s perfect peace. As the aircraft reached its parking bay, the sun finally announced its arrival with a fresh, fiery sky, laced with pink-tinged clouds.


Yeah, just another flight.

McGlashan's Hawker Hurricane P2902 Flies Again By Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Hawker Hurricane P-2902 G-ROBT McGlashan

(Image: via Hawker Restorations


The Hawker Hurricane of Squadron Leader Kenneth McGlashan AFC has taken to flight in the UK. 'Mac' had been shot down in this aircraft over Dunkirk in 1940 and after rediscovery and years of restoration, P2902, G-ROBT has taken to the air once more.

I cannot help but think of Mac and his lovely wife, Doreen, and how thrilled they would have been to see the Hurricane flying. I am sure that they are looking down from the heavens with a sense of nostalgia. In writing the book, 'Down to Earth', I was honoured to come to know them and in time, become friends. Today, I will remember them through the photos, notes and recordings from when we worked together on their story. In the meantime, here are some words about Mac to share with you.

Blue skies, Mac.

In the darkest days of 1940, the skies over Britain were a sea of swirling contrails as the Luftwaffe challenged the stoic resistance of the Royal Air Force and the British people. As the skies began to clear, Sir Winston Churchill made note of the debt owed to “The Few”. By numbers, they were the 3,000 fighter pilots who had defended the realm through the Battle of Britain and within this sum only three percent were officially recognised as “Aces”. Squadron Leader Kenneth Butterworth McGlashan AFC was proud to be counted amongst the remaining 97%.


Before the Battle of Britain came the Battle of France. The German forces had rapidly advanced to the French coast and encircled the Allies. Now, ‘Operation Dynamo’ was attempting to evacuate these troops across the Channel using all and sundry vessels to access the shallows of the coastline near Dunkirk. A tell-tale pall of smoke from burning oil and the haze of devastation hung over the evacuation.


Above the English Channel a young Pilot Officer, Kenneth McGlashan was perched at 25,000 feet, leading the rearmost section of Mk. I Hawker Hurricanes tasked to defend the evacuation from the continuous pounding of the Luftwaffe’s bombers. In a confused instant, McGlashan’s wingman blurted a garbled transmission and broke left aggressively, ahead two grey Messerschmitt Bf109s swept past. McGlashan rolled in on his foe when the sound of an alarm clock reverberated behind his head; it was a wake-up call initiated by German rounds striking armour-plating. He had gone from the hunter to the hunted in the blink of an eye.


“Red tracers started bombarding my cockpit, whistling between my legs and ravaging the left hand side of my cockpit. I slammed the control stick forward and to the right, entering a downward roll in that direction sending my world spinning around. The back of my legs stung as splinters from the maze of piping beneath my feet had been shredded. Engine coolant and all variety of oils showered me as smoke began to fill my cockpit. The attack seemed to have abated, though I knew my machine was done for. I pulled the aircraft out of the dive and began readying myself to bail out. I cut the engine and fuel and set about sliding back the hood. Silly me, I had been flying with my goggles atop my helmet. The mix of smoke and oils that were bringing down my Hurricane were also serving to partially blind me. I fumbled to get the canopy back, but each time it slid closed. In my excitement, I was failing to lock it open and I began to wonder if this is how my war was to end. At that moment, the second attack started.”


Powerless, McGlashan dived again, combining gravity and inertia to make a beeline for the beach below. He decided to test the newly held theory that the Hurricane was more effective at recovering from a dive than the 109 and at the very last moment heaved back on the control column with all the might he could muster.


“As the blood drained from my head, my world went ‘black and white’ and then just black………………….

When my sight returned, I was fortunately beetling along in level flight at the grand altitude of 10 feet towards Dunkirk. In an almost surreal scene, I weaved myself a path between the sea of abandoned trucks, Lorries and equipment that covered the beach.”


Hawker Hurricane P-2902 G-ROBT McGlashan


McGlashan’s Hurricane came to rest on the sand 9 miles south of Dunkirk near the Belgian border. His trek to the devastated township was punctuated by air battles overhead and encounters with German infantry fire, yet his overwhelming memory is of the isolation and the dead soldiery floating on the waves like so much flotsam.


“It was an eerie sensation walking along the beach surrounded by the debris of battle, whilst a fierce air battle continued to rage overhead. The rattling of machine gun fire and the pounding from an anti-aircraft battery filled the air. With expended cartridges and ammo belt links returning to earth, metal seemed to be falling out of the sky all around me and I stopped to pick up a ‘tin hat’.


As I walked the beach toward the rising smoke from the Dunkirk I had never felt such isolation. Downed on foreign soil in the midst of combat, I had no grasp of what was coming next. A mere teenager, I was face to face with the realities of the ground war. In all honesty, I had hoped that joining the RAF would have spared me from the horror.”


Hawker Hurricane P-2902 G-ROBT McGlashan


Returning to England via a Thames paddle steamer, McGlashan continued to operate with 245 Squadron from the RAF base at Hawkinge on the English coast and at the battle’s forefront. Soon the airfield fell under heavy bombardment and the squadron was transferred to Ireland to protect vital shipping routes against the Focke Wulf F-200 Condors. Before the relocation, McGlashan tangled with the Luftwaffe once again, this time over Cherbourg. Three bogies had climbed through his formation’s level but escaped the attention of his leader. The unreliable radio in his Hurricane failed to transmit a warning of the impending attack, so when the German fighters rolled in from above McGlashan broke with his section and confronted the enemy head-to-head. Inexplicably, at the crucial moment, the attacking leader abandoned his attack, peeling away and leaving McGlashan with a textbook full deflection shot.


“Laying off a gunsight’s width, I fired. The tracers streaked to the target and the De Wilde ammunition hit and sparkled as my shots worked their way entire way down his port side, from nose to the tail. My angle made for good penetration of the .303’s and I knew I had him as he started down.”

At this point the combination of slow speed, high bank angle and recoiling Brownings flicked McGlashan into a spin and the clouds below. Despite absolute confidence that he had his foe, the strict RAF guidelines precluded him claiming a victory; he had not seen the enemy aircraft crash, catch fire or explode.


After a frustrating period of cat and mouse with the Condors, McGlashan ventured into a new world, that of night fighting. Based out of RAF Cranage in north western England, 96 Squadron was equipped with cannon-equipped Mk II Hurricanes and the two-crew Boulton Paul Defiant. To date the young fighter pilot had only 17 hours previous night experience, all in fine weather. Now in the depths of 1941, the industrial refuse blended with the streams of low cloud to provide miserable conditions. To add to their woes after a sortie, the pilots had to dodge nearby barrage balloons before overcoming 100 foot trees on the airfield perimeter.


“On one particular evening, the standard recovery was not working well so they moved the approach lamps five times due to the debris of crashed aircraft. Finally, out of space and low on aeroplanes, they closed the airfield to operations.”


It was the early days of night-fighting and the modus operandi involved the stacking of aircraft above the burning cities of England. This layering of aircraft was termed the “Jacobs Ladder” and flying above 12,000 feet to hopefully remain out of the range of their own anti-aircraft batteries. Separated by a mere 500 feet, up to ten fighters would fly along pre-designated routes and look earthward for enemy bombers silhouetted against the inferno of devastation below. The technique was far from successful and on the rare occasion that the enemy was sighted below, the dive to attack would often only serve to put the fighters at the mercy of Ack Ack as the bomber slipped back into the veil of darkness.


After a short term instructing, McGlashan’s next posting was to 87 Squadron and immediately something big began to stir. On August 19th 1942, McGlashan departed RAF Tangmere on the second wave of fighters bound for Dieppe. It is now history that the landing at Dieppe, codenamed ‘Operation Jubilee’, was the allied forces first combined effort to land troops on the French Coast. It was also the greatest single day of losses for the RAF with over 100 aircraft failing to return, many due to the intense ground fire.


“With an air-filled VOOF my mission nearly ended there and then as a shell passed close enough to be heard. The sky was absolutely thick with the black smoke of exploding shells. The cliff tops were littered with houses within which were stationed light German anti-aircraft guns. They were terribly accurate and in company with the barrage from their heavy guns, there was little room left in the sky for us.”


With great relief he crossed the French coast, though now separated from his squadron. Alone, he set about attacking a major gun emplacement. His .303 Brownings were akin to throwing stones at a tank, so McGlashan made a series of attacks from varying approaches, popping up and hoping to surprise the German personnel behind the parapets.


“I was setting myself for a fourth attack when there was a series of chest wrenching “Bangs!” These were accompanied by columns of earth being hurled skyward. I looked up to see a bunch of our “Hurri-bombers” releasing their payload of two 250 pounders. I was down in the dirt, the wall of the gun’s parapet was ahead at eye height and I readied for one last pass when all hell broke loose. A deafening explosion erupted directly below me and threw my Hurricane hundreds of feet into the air. The percussion and negative “G” force starved my Merlin’s carburettor of fuel and all went quiet up the front. I was seemingly hanging in mid-air, with a choking engine, for a few of those seconds that seem to take forever. I thought I’d had it. “


Hawker Hurricane P-2902 G-ROBT McGlashan


McGlashan’s luck held out and he was able to limp the battered fighter and its overheating engine back across the Channel; but only just. Whilst waiting to de-brief at Tangmere before readying for another sortie his ground crew hailed him to come and inspect his aircraft more closely.


“The bottom of my aircraft was pulp. In the sagging canvas hung wires, pipes and numerous other pieces of the Hurricane’s anatomy, literally hanging by a thread. I was aghast.”


In the wake of the disastrous raid on Dieppe, McGlashan was on the move again, this time to 536 Squadron and a new night-fighting tactic termed, “Turbinlite’. The concept was to provide a “Hunter-Killer” pairing of aircraft to intercept enemy bombers. A Douglas Boston or Havoc equipped with a powerful floodlight in the nose constituted the ‘Hunter’ while a Hurricane flying in close formation would be the ‘Killer’ component. The technique was for the Boston to make a radar interception of the target, close to firing range and then illuminate the target with the brilliant spotlight for the Hurricane to attack. That was the theory. In reality, the danger of mid-air collision was far greater than the chances of a kill as the Hurricane held formation on the Boston with the assistance of a lone, tiny light shining its narrow beam.


The folly of Turbinlite was soon abandoned as advances in radar technology and the introduction of the de Havilland Mosquito made the pairing obsolete. For McGlashan, the ‘Mosquito’ was to be his next aircraft and the type on which he would ultimately accrue the majority of his flight time.


Prior to joining 264 Squadron, McGlashan had minimal experience on multi-engine aircraft his endorsement on the high-performance Mosquito consisted of riding along in the Navigator’s seat on a brief sortie, recorded in his log book simply as “watching things”.


Paired with a Navigator/Radar, McGlashan’s primary task involved the all-weather radar interception of enemy aircraft. By 1943 German bombers had well and truly ceased to cross the British coastline in any numbers. More often lone ‘intruders’ would make attacks which had more effect on morale than being of real strategic significance. Conducting a post-maintenance test flight on May 5th, McGlashan and his Nav/Rad Bernard Cannon were brought down, not by enemy fire, but an explosive failure of the port engine. Never having been formally trained in ‘engine-out’ flying, McGlashan’s approach to land was high and fast and ended in a fireball at the end of the runway at RAF Colerne. Whilst Cannon escaped unscathed, McGlashan was dragged unconscious from the wreck and subsequently spent an extended term in hospital. Post war the experience would result in McGlashan formulating a multi-engine training syllabus for the RAF which contributed to the award of Air Force Cross.


McGlashan’s final operational sorties occurred on the night of June 5th/6th 1944 as allied forces prepared to land at Normandy. Training clandestinely away from the peering eyes of radar, a handful of specially equipped Mosquitos were tasked with ‘jamming’ and German aircraft that were set to disrupt communications on D-Day. This had become a real concern just prior to the landings when a Junkers Ju88 had been downed over England in the preceding weeks. On board was radio jamming equipment which covered the spectrum of allied frequencies intended for use at Normandy.


Hawker Hurricane P-2902 G-ROBT McGlashan


On the eve of D-Day, the handful of 264 Squadron Mosquitos was the only aircraft airborne as they hunted for enemy aircraft. Flying ever expanding circles over France, they had orders to shoot down or if need be ‘ram’ any targets. After extensive training, thorough briefings and pre-flight tension, the skies proved to be clear.


“For three hours, we sought out any evidence of German signals or jamming devices and registered nothing. Did we genuinely have an element of surprise, or were the enemy lying low and waiting for us in his den? Whatever the cause, we encountered nothing at all until we turned for home and started to pick up the foil being snidely dropped by our own bombers. To our radar the ‘chaff’ painted a very impressive strike force that never was!”


Following D-Day, McGlashan was deemed ‘Tourex’ or ‘Tour Expired’. Having flown continuously since the outbreak of the war in 1939, he was not bound for France with the rest of 264 Squadron. He saw out the war, seconded to the British Civil airline BOAC based in Cairo and establishing air routes through the Middle East. Post war he would command his own fighter squadron, see the transition of RAF fighters to a jet force and serve in the nasty campaign in Cyprus. He would finally leave the RAF in 1958 after nearly 20 years service as a Squadron Leader with the Air Force Cross and the esteemed “Battle of Britain” clasp to his credit.


Hawker Hurricane P-2902 G-ROBT McGlashan


Nearly half a century later and living in Australia, McGlashan received a mysterious letter from England. It outlined facts that initially the retired fighter pilot had trouble grasping; the Hawker Hurricane that he had left on the Dunkirk beach in 1940 had surfaced through the sand and now been recovered. In an emotional pilgrimage to France, McGlashan was reunited with the steed of his youth and its bullet riddled cockpit.


“The port side still bore numerous wounds from the spitting guns of the Messerschmitt. The canopy panels were shattered, metal frames were holed and the windscreen bore evidence of a lethal projectile. I drew close and leant over, attempting to align myself with the angle of the attack. Peering through one hole towards another in the glass, I could make out the trajectory as the bullet had sped across the cockpit. How it had missed me, I’ll never know.  This was probably the most overwhelming of the many thoughts and feelings that swirled about me. I felt like a ghost. I felt that the bullets had passed clean through me. Yet here I was. Given the fury that had been expended upon my cockpit, it defied logic that I had not met my end over the French shores.”


Today the restoration of the Hurricane is nearing completion and it is set to again take to the skies, though unfortunately Kenneth Butterworth McGlashan has not lived to see the event take place. He never saw himself other than an ordinary man who was thrust into extraordinary times. For history’s part he will always remain one of “The Few”. Albeit one of the proud 97%.


Hawker Hurricane P-2902 G-ROBT McGlashan

Why I Write.

Owen Zupp - Thursday, June 01, 2017


Phillip Zupp's Commemorative Plaque


I am often asked why I write and where do I find the time?

With four children and a full time job, it's not easy, although I must say up front that it wouldn't even be possible without the wonderful support of my wife. In terms of time management, I just find a quiet hour whenever I can and frequently that is in the dark hours. There is no time for waiting to be struck by 'the muse', as I have learned over the years meeting deadlines month after month for magazine editors. Sit down and start writing - that's it.

However, beyond the logistics, it is you, the readers, that continually inspire and motivate me. The fact that you out there take precious time out of your lives to read what I have written means a great deal to me. Not infrequently, I receive direct feedback in the form of a book review, an email or a message, for which I am very appreciative. And within these messages there are those that make me feel very, very fortunate and absolutely blown away that dad's story (Without Precedent) has touched so many people.

The photo above came from one such reader and I cannot say "Thank You" enough.

Here is his message.


Hey Owen,


I've just finished reading Without Precedent and I feel compelled to tell you about the profound impact the book has had on me. Every year I go to the dawn service, I hear the story of the Gallipoli landing, pay my respects and go home. The horrific details of war are rarely discussed and I’ve come to realise how grossly under-educated I am in regard to the specific details of the sacrifices our service personnel make in battle and the ongoing impacts they deal with long after their service.


The story of Les Turner and Ian Wharton is harrowing. The story of Gladys Strawbridge’s frangipanis came damn close to having me in tears. My childhood was a walk in the park compared to Phillips, I could go on and on. Thank you so much for the history and knowledge you have passed on to me. I took me so long to read the book because I constantly stopped to Google certain aircraft, BCOF, Yamato etc. I was glued to my iPad from the second paragraph.


I grew up in Tully and worked in the sugar industry so it was exciting to read about Phillip's time as a cane cutter. I now live in Toowoomba and it was even more exciting to read about Toowoomba’s history and your families place in that history. I live and work only a stone's throw from Drayton Cemetery, so late this afternoon my girlfriend and I spent some time scouting out Phillip's plaque at the Wall of Remembrance. We also stopped by Bill, Louisa, Phillip and Edith’s resting place. Finding the plots could have been a needle in a haystack but I thought the Lutheran section might a good place to start and it paid off. By the way, the old foundry site is almost a Bunnings now, how times have changed.


Thanks again Owen.


No, thanks go to you - the readers.





Recalling that Solo Flight by Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Thursday, April 27, 2017


Recalling that 'Solo Flight'. 


Each year when May rolls around my mind is cast back to my 'There and Back' flight around Australia. It was an amazing journey that was set to the backdrop of Australia's centenary of powered flight and along the way raised funds for the very deserving Royal Flying Doctor Service. The adventure became the book 'Solo Flight' and I still flick through the pages from time to time to rekindle the emotions that the flight stirred in me. So, as May 2017 dawns, I thought I would share with you some thoughts that I penned once the flight was complete. Cheers.


From its earliest conception, my flight around Australia titled ‘There and Back’ was destined to be memorable. However, the degree to which it would exceed expectations could never have been fathomed when I first decided to celebrate the centenary of powered flight in Australia. One can always plan for contingencies, but it is far more difficult to anticipate the majestic range of people and places that this country has on offer.

In Hinkler’s Wake.

When Bert Hinkler arrived home in Bundaberg after his triumphant solo flight from England in 1928, it was a somewhat smaller town that greeted him to than the one that exists today. The modern city is home not only to the Hinkler Hall of Aviation, but a veritable aerospace heartland. Aside from flight training, Bundaberg is home to the development of everything from avionics to entire aeroplanes.

The single-engined J230 that Jabiru Aircraft provided me with for the flight represents only one of around 2,000 airframes and 6,500 engines the company has built. Even before departure it was apparent that this flight was to be as much a wake-up call as a centenary celebration as the greater public is unaware of the work being done in Australia by companies such as Jabiru.

In the days preceding the flight, grey skies and rain showers threatened to rain on the parade as I attended to a number of tasks from practising wheel changes to conducting media interviews. Unlike Hinkler, I had the benefit of 4-day forecasts and synoptic charts and was confident that the weather would be seaward by the morning of departure and fortunately this proved to be the case.

By the time the earth fell away from the wheels at Bundaberg I could confidently say that there was little else left to do but fly the aeroplane. The planning and preparation had been extensive and I had the support of wonderful people in Sydney fielding calls, updating the website and providing a second set of eyes upon my NOTAMS, weather forecasts and flight plans. The job ahead now was to safely and efficiently execute the flight and as I made a left turn south of Rockhampton to leave the coastline for the interior, I did so with a deep breath and a very large grin.

Around We Go.

The trough of low pressure that had loitered over Bundaberg had been pushed off the map by a dominant ‘High’ right over central Australia. The weather was one variable over which I had no control, yet this current situation offered days of clear skies and occasional tailwinds. To such a backdrop I settled into my combined routine of aircraft monitoring, navigation and sightseeing.

The presence of recent rains was immediately reflected below in the green-tinged outback and running creeks. The route had been based upon points of aviation significance and when Longreach loomed in the window at the end of the first day, I was greeted by the unmistakeable forms of a DC-3 and two mighty Boeings, the 707 and 747. Whilst an obvious example, the presence of these aircraft reflected something that I would witness throughout the entire flight, the many different ways remote Australia commemorates its ties with aviation overcoming the tyranny of distance.

Western Australia’s Murchison Station is home to the graves of the early aviators, Ted Broad and Bob Fawcett, who died there in 1921 and the Yorke Peninsula township of Minlaton houses pioneer airman Harry Butler’s scarlet Bristol monoplane in the main street. At every turn there seemed to be a link with our aviation heritage and the brave individuals who forged the frontiers. For a small island nation we had fought well above our weight in the emerging days of aviation and the reminders are everywhere for those who choose to seek them.

As I worked my way anticlockwise around the country, it was not just our aviation past that was evident. The nation continues to find its lifeline in the skies as evidenced by the aeromedical, charter and RPT services that criss-crossed my route each day. Yet the perception remains that flight is somewhat intangible to many folks. However, the sight of a fully loaded two-seat aeroplane weighing less than 600kg seemed to tilt the scales a little. From curious commercial pilots to hangars full of schoolchildren, the sight of a Jabiru and a lone pilot flying around Australia brought aviation back to earth for many. With an array of modern equipment, low running costs and a price tag around those of some four-wheel drive motor vehicles, the skies seemed to be not so far away.

The fact that flight in Australia is quite accessible, feasible and affordable began to register with many of those I encountered. One hundred years in a country strong on distance and rich in aviation had made my remarkable journey, relatively unremarkable. The likes of Hinkler and Kingsford Smith deserve our gratitude making it so.

The Generosity of Strangers.

‘There and Back’ was closely tied to 100 years of flight, but within that century there are precious few years that haven’t featured the amazing work of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. RFDS came into being three months after Hinkler landed in Darwin following his epic flight from England and has saved countless lives over the subsequent eight decades. Through pioneering spirit and resourcefulness, it has grown to over 50 modern aircraft caring for around 750 patients each day and flying over 70,000 hours each year.

It is quite literally the outback’s lifeline, yet it continues to rely upon the support of the broader community to revamp and replace its specialised equipment. As such, my journey grew to have another purpose in raising the awareness of the wonderful work of the RFDS while endeavouring to raise funds for this very worthy cause. At every port of call, someone had a ‘Flying Doctor’ tale and I often held short of the runway as one of their King Airs or PC-12s taxied in to move their priceless payload. I would speak at lunches or evening barbeques and an ice cooler would be passed around or a cheque handed over to pass onto this great Australian institution. And all the while my online donation facility continued to tick towards its fundraising goal of $10,000.

The generosity was extended beyond donations in countless gestures along the way. From the refueller at Carnarvon to the caravan park at Port Lincoln, everyone wanted to make this journey a success and highlight the work of RFDS. The warmth of the community and the evenings spent chatting over a meal from Forrest on the Nullarbor to Tasmania’s Tamar Valley was a very pleasant reminder of this great country’s heart. It is always a joy to fly beyond one’s regular boundaries, but so often it is the people as much as the places that make the experience unforgettable.

Keep on Keeping On.

Irrespective of the sector length, preflight preparation is paramount in safely undertaking any flight. For ‘There and Back’, in the event of adverse weather, alternate routes had been planned and, on occasions, utilised. To cater for enroute emergencies, I carried food rations and water, life jackets and beacons, space blankets and first aid kits. Yet, aside from the weather, the other variable was aircraft reliability.

To this end, my equipment included a spare wheel, tool kit, oil and filters amongst other items. However, besides a small crack to a wheel spat from a wayward rock at Barkly Homestead, the Jabiru did not miss a beat. For over 7,000 nautical miles the Australian built airframe and engine averaged 117 knots TAS and sipped around 24 litres per hour. It was called upon to climb out in 32 degrees of humid Territorian heat and cold start at Launceston in near freezing temperatures. It was asked to keep humming along over the remote Kimberley, Bass Strait and the ‘shark-rich’ waters of the Spencer Gulf.

Virtually all categories of airspace were encountered along the way as well and while the RA-Aus call-sign of “Jabiru 7381” occasionally necessitated a repeat call, the transponder-equipped Jabiru J230 encountered no procedural issues at all. In fact, everyone from airport managers to ATC and Airservices were extremely helpful in every State and Territory. The marvel of the iPhone and the ability to access such facilities as NAIPS and weather radars further reminded me of how far we had come since the pioneers flew with an atlas and a strip map on their laps.

Yet, for all the technology, there is still no substitute for sound airmanship principles. Reminiscent of my days as a young outback charter pilot, I religiously kept in-flight logs and navigated with reference to my visual charts. GPS is a tremendous tool, but it is just one spanner, not the entire tool-kit. Adhering to the fundamentals of flight management and incorporating the new technology can lead to tremendous situational awareness; conversely, blindly following a GPS is fraught with potential danger.

The Lucky Country Below.

A question frequently posed by the media was whether I was ever bored. Aside from managing the aircraft and its flight path, the scenery below was absolutely captivating and boredom never entered my mind. Over the course of such a flight, it is the diversity of the scenery that can leave the overwhelming impression. That is not to say that there are individual sights that take the breath away. The majestic Lake Argyle in the Kimberley region or the serene endlessness of the Nullarbor Plain are both very moving in their own particular ways. However, when you can depart the coastal port of Broome over pristine aqua waters and track along pure white beaches before striking the rustic, red of the Pilbara within an hour, it is nothing short of inspiring. This diversity of colour, wildlife and inhabitation essentially demonstrated the full spectrum of scenic Australia.

To take in such a view from between 500 and 5,000 feet, enables one to really embrace the richness of the terrain. The land below has real detail and the passage of the shadows as the day develops provides yet another perspective on the rich canvas below. There are long abandoned ruins of long forgotten towns and flocks of birds that give the impression of a vast blanket skimming from paddock to paddock. Even the so-called ‘remote’ regions stimulate the senses with their jagged, jutting ridges and gun-barrel roads between distant settlements. It is a truly amazing land.

Specifically I will always recall, parking the Jabiru beside a 75 Squadron FA-18 Hornet at Tindal and the warmth of a luncheon with the folks at Minlaton in South Australia where they performed a song to remember their local aviation hero, Harry Butler. The silence of my verandah at Forrest as I breathed in the stillness of the Nullarbor and the drama of the cliffs where the land meets the crashing waves of the Great Australian Bight. Visiting my father’s grave at Toowoomba and Point Cook where his own aviation journey had begun so many years ago, while the ‘welcome home’ hugs of my wife and kids were to be cherished. This list goes on as one would expect after such a tremendous expedition.

Back From There.

With the flight safely completed and the last of the media commitments met, I stayed on in Bundaberg with my family for a few days to gather my thoughts. In a busy schedule, it was the first real opportunity to reflect and absorb the events of the wonderful weeks that had passed. With each day another anecdote was recalled from my diary or one of 700 photographs and 30 hours of footage.

I was truly fortunate to have the opportunity to see this great land so intimately, yet it is something within the reach of most appropriately experienced pilots. It need not be solo, although there is a deal of satisfaction and time for thought that only lone flight can offer. Whatever a pilots boundaries may be, there is much to be said for safely extending them in every sense.

Personally I was able to celebrate a landmark of Australian aviation and share that with countless people along the way, while the Jabiru’s form reminded them of the grass roots of flight. To raise awareness of the Royal Flying Doctor’s contribution not only to an industry, but a nation was very satisfying and the ability to reach my target of raising $10,000 was the icing on the cake.

I am sure that this journey and the people and places will remain with me for many years to come. It was an opportunity to combine a lifelong dream and passion with a commemoration and a cause far beyond the magnitude of any individual. Australia’s proud aviation heritage is something to cherish and build upon in the finest traditions of innovation and safety. For now, I count myself as being truly fortunate and will never again view a map of Australia in the same way. Nor will I forget the month of May when I was able to take to the skies from Bundaberg and fly There and Back’.



An ANZAC Dawn by Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Looking into the cockpit of her grandfather's jet. 

It seems like it’s always been the still dark hours. As those soldiers, the “ANZACS”, prepared to land at Gallipoli and the armada positioned off Normandy, the peace of the night seemed juxtaposed against the human maelstrom that would unfold in only a matter of hours. Modern warfare has never known business hours and the bombings of Europe raged with equal vengeance through night and day. As a boy, the still dark hours came around for me every April 25th; ANZAC Day.

Each year it was a day afforded special reverence in our home. Old photos of young faces were placed on the mantelpiece, with their smiles frozen in time. For these were the family and friends I never knew, but always felt that I did. My mother and father had both served in World War Two while my father saw action for a second time in Korea a few years later. Along the way so many of these fresh faces had perished, buried in the corner of some foreign field at best or their fate remaining unknown at worst.

My mother tended to the photographs, placing a small red poppy beside each of them and a relevant page of verse here or there. For my father’s part, the faces stayed within his head and the photo albums in my bedroom cupboard. Yet despite their different forms of tribute, my parents never forgot those who had gone before and sacrificed their tomorrows. ANZAC Day was sacred in the Zupp household.

And in that dark household in the quiet hours before dawn I would be stirred from my bed by my parents; already dressed and ready for the day. As I dragged my young form into the land of the living my mother would fumble with the clasp holding her medals, while my father checked that his shoes were highly polished and his ‘Returned from Active Service’ badge was fastened in his lapel. His medals remained within his drawers for many years until I was on the verge of manhood when my mother finally had them mounted. His medals, like his service to his country, were treasured, but tucked away safely now that the job was done. Rather shy, he chose not to march on ANZAC Day, though he and my mother would always try to spot their mates on the television. For both my parents, the Dawn Service held the most significance and solemnity.

So each year we would climb into the car and sit on those cold, vinyl seats as we drove to the Cenotaph in the wee hours. The passing street lights were almost hypnotic to my drowsy eyes as we drove down the empty roads and finally parked. I would wake briskly as the car door swung open and the rush of April air smacked my cheeks, before straightening up and following my parents passed barricades and attendants offering paper programmes. Groups of servicemen were in huddles, their breath forming small pockets of fog as they exchanged greetings and rubbed their hands together. Looking back, these men were younger than I am today and the war was far more recent than I ever credited it being. Yet to me they were old veterans in their grey suits and felt hats; men to be respected.

I would stand quietly with my parents with the silence only broken by the low hum of conversation, or the odd squawk of the bag-pipes as the kilted musician tuned his instrument. His legs must be so cold I used to think. Then the service would begin and the voices would cut through the silence without the need for microphones or amplification. I would listen intently and grasp what basic understanding I could of the importance of this service of remembrance.

As the service passed through quotations, tributes and hymns, my father’s jaw never flinched, nor did his sharp eyes ever seek the security of the ground ahead. However, my mother would have her quiet moments, drop her head silently and shed a tear, not knowing that I could see. My mother had lost her first fiancé in New Guinea only weeks before her wedding when his aircraft erupted in flames over the target. Her first Dawn Service had been only days after that loss in the dark, silent rain at the Sydney Cenotaph; but she had missed very few Dawn Services in the subsequent years.

The ‘Minute’s Silence’ would be so very, very silent that I dared not breath until finally the bugle’s Reveille would offer a reprieve and signal that the fallen had now been properly remembered. The men would once more move into groups, but now their conversation was less muffled; more open. They would head to the RSL Club for breakfast and the chance to reminisce before the ANZAC Day march. We would shuffle back to the car and have breakfast at home where Mum would share some significant recollections of the war and Dad would agree with her.

As we ate our breakfast, the photos always seemed to have another dimension after the Dawn Service and I viewed them in a slightly different light. I would look at the uniforms and the caps they wore more closely and stopped to realise just how young they really were in the overall scheme of life. In retrospect, it was all rather deep and philosophical for a boy of my age, but I suspect that’s where the foundations for my strong sense of ANZAC Day was founded. And those faces have never left me.

In fact, they are so much more than faces today. Their sacrifice stayed with me as I grew and I yearned to know more. Today, I have their photos are in my home and their records of service sit in my desk. In fact, my own name hails from those of my father and one young face that was lost so many years ago. In recent years, I have spoken to so many veterans and the families of those who served with my parents. I do my very utmost to ensure that their service and its significance is not lost in a world where celebrity seems to grab the headlines over substance at every turn. In the last year I was able to arrange for my children to meet with one of my father’s squadron mates. A thorough gentleman, he is still as sharp as a tack and enthralled my children with tales of the grandfather they never knew. For me it was a truly special moment and a tangible link between my Dad and my beautiful family and further extended their pride in their Grandad.

Our veterans are special people, whether they served long ago, or if they are currently sweating it out in some distant land. Whether they failed to return, or survived to tell the tale. Whether they lie in a marked grave or perished without trace in some distant corner of the globe. They all made a sacrifice for the freedoms we possess today and are so often taken for granted.

After meeting my father’s Air Force comrade that day, we also visited the Australian War Memorial and walked along the rows of names enshrined on its walls. My oldest daughter began to grasp the enormity of what these names represented, while my young son raced along the pathway. As I went to bark at him to slow down in such a sacred aisle, I paused just for a moment. His grandfather and so many served so that he is free to run in the shadow of these sacred names. Even so, without my raised voice he came to an abrupt halt and stared at the plaque ahead of him. The plaque bore the names of those killed in service with 77 Squadron in the skies over Korea.

That was my father’s squadron.

Lest We Forget.


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