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6SQN returns for its mates

Volume 48, No. 20, November 2, 2006

UNVEILED: CPL Phil Daniels (left) and LAC Daniel Watson fold the Air Force Ensign during the 6SQN memorial service at the War Service section of the Evans Head Cemetery.
 Photos by AC Aaron Curran

SOLEMN MOMENT: 6SQN CO WGCDR Ken Quinn lays a wreath watched by members of the Holt and Noordink families.

By Andrew Stackpool

NUMBER 6 Squadron’s motto is ‘Nous Reviendrons’ (‘we shall return’), and return they did when they unveiled a memorial commemorating the service of two F-111 aircrew that died in the line of duty.

On September 29, 1977, SQNLDR John Holt and FLTLT Phil Noordink died after their aircraft was involved in a bird-strike incident.

Earlier that morning, F-111 A8-133, callsign ‘Falcon 32’, had departed RAAF Base Amberley for the Evans Head Air Weapons range to conduct a conversion course sortie. Falcon 32 had successfully completed two runs and had just turned again for the third when at least three birds, possibly pelicans, struck it in the cockpit front. The birds smashed the cockpit canopies and may have also disabled the crew.
Regardless, the two airmen were placed in a catastrophic situation.

SQNLDR Holt and FLTLT Noordink initiated ejection well outside the safe envelope from the stricken aircraft but, tragically, the crew module struck the ground and they died. They were the first of three 6SQN crews who have been lost since the aircraft entered service in 1973.

6SQN CO WGCDR Ken Quinn said that the squadron felt it was appropriate to erect a permanent memorial to the men.

“We constructed two memorial cairns,” he said. “The first was erected at the crash site and the other in the RAAF section of the Evans Head Cemetery.

“Then, on the anniversary, September 29, 2006, we held two dedication ceremonies: the first at the crash site in the morning; the other, at the cemetery in the afternoon.”

CHAP Paul Goodland from Amberley conducted the services, as three F-111s in ‘Missing Man’ formation flew past in salute. Some wreaths were also laid.

Twenty-six members of the Holt and Noordink families, together with current and former 6SQN members, attended. At the end of the services, WGCDR Quinn presented Air Force’s ‘Bereaved Family Pins’ on behalf of CAF AIRMSHL Geoff Shepherd to members of both families.

“It was a privilege to host members of the Holt and Noordink families on the day,” WGCDR Quinn said.

“The opportunity to dedicate more substantial memorials in Evans Head was a great experience for all the 6SQN members, and sharing that time with the family members was tremendous.

“I also wish to acknowledge the outstanding contribution made by ASQN, 5th Aviation Regiment – Oakey in deploying two Iroquois. They undoubtedly contributed to the successful establishment of the memorials, along with the outstanding support of the Evans Head range staff led by FLTLT Matt King and SGT Greg Bower.”



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