Wings of Gold
The Story of Australian Pilots and Observers who
Trained with the United States Navy 1966-1968
Trevor Rieck, Jack McCaffrie and Jed Hart
Newport NSW: Big Sky Publishing 2020
Hardback 285pp RRP $34.99
Reviewer: Mike O’Brien, April 2020
This book is a comprehensive and very well-illustrated account of RAN personnel who undertook flight and observer training in the United States. Naval aviation training had previously been done by the RAAF with some supplementation by the RN. The RAAF’s inability to cater for navy requirements meant that the US options had to be investigated and adopted. Several dozen RAN personnel proceeded to Pensacola Florida to do this training.
The co-authors were part of this group. They have produced a step-by-step account of their training with extensive detail of its basis and execution. The courses conducted in the US produced pilots for RAN Grumman Trackers, helicopters and observers. There are great accounts of the various training aircraft, their instructors, the training system, their host families and the differences between RAN and USN approaches. The book has a direct and light touch, with engaging personal anecdotes, The descriptions of carrier deck landings verge on the thrilling . It’s a great read.
There is an account of the subsequent careers of these men – it pulls no punches. The sadness of the unthinking reception these graduates received from those trained in the ‘Australian’ way is properly emphasised.
This is a valuable contribution to RAN history, sadly lacking an index.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review