He’s 100 years of age and has flown all around the world, but Air Force veteran Alan Hastie said the best flight of his life was on a British Bristol Beaufort at the end of World War II.
After a year-long deployment to Papua New Guinea where he serviced Beauforts as an aircraft technician, Mr Hastie’s commanding officer gave him a choice between flying home to Brisbane in the co-pilot’s seat of a Beaufort or sailing home with other ADF members on an aircraft carrier.
“I’m not sure why he gave me the option,” Mr Hastie said.
“He just asked me how I’d like to get home and if I’d rather go home on an aircraft carrier or on a plane.
“I didn’t want to be on an aircraft carrier for a week with thousands of other people, so I chose the plane.”
Originally enlisting in the Army in Brisbane in 1941, Mr Hastie obtained the rank of acting sergeant before transferring to the RAAF three years later.
“I changed over to the Air Force to try and get into aircrew,” Mr Hastie said.
While training to become an aircrew member in Kingaroy, Queensland, Mr Hastie was told that the RAAF had an adequate supply of aircrew and he would be moved to ground staff.
After six months of training as an aircraft technician at Sydney Technical College, Mr Hastie was briefly posted to Tocumwal, NSW, before being deployed to Aitape in PNG.
“I did enjoy it,” he said.
“You might say it was an easy job in one way, because we weren’t involved in actual fighting, just servicing the planes.”
Jumping at the opportunity to fly home to Brisbane as the only passenger on a Beaufort at the end of the war, Mr Hastie remembered the scenic journey along the Queensland coastline.
“We picked up fuel at Cape York and the pilot said that we would dodge Townsville and Cairns so we wouldn’t have to go through the red tape there,” he said.
Following the coastline south, Mr Hastie and the Beaufort pilot stayed overnight in Rockhampton before continuing their journey the following morning.
“We were going to land at Amberley because, back then, Archerfield was a civil aerodrome,” he said.
“It was the main airstrip for Brisbane at the time.
“As we got close to Brisbane, the pilot said ‘show me where it is’, referring to Archerfield, so I pointed it out to him and we landed there.”
After saying goodbye to the pilot, who had to return the aircraft to western NSW, Mr Hastie caught a bus into Brisbane and a tram to his family home in The Grange where he surprised his unsuspecting parents.
“I turned up home and my parents said ‘Where’d you come from?’,” Mr Hastie said.
Discharging from the RAAF as a leading aircraftman in 1946, Mr Hastie married Mary Ursula Sims, a kindergarten teacher and raised four children.
Since turning 100 on April 14, Mr Hastie has received numerous messages, including a letter from The Queen.
Senior ADF Officer at RAAF Base Amberley Group Captain Iain Carty presented Mr Hastie with a framed Air Force centenary commemorative memento in recognition of his milestone birthday and to honour his service to the nation.
“I’m very grateful, I really am,” Mr Hastie said.
“I’ve done very well but I don’t think I’ve deserved it all as there were thousands of us and I didn’t do anything special, I have to confess, I just did the work.”