From bringing home prisoners of war to transporting VIPs, the Royal Australian Air Force’s 34 Squadron has a lot to show for its 80 years of charting the skies above Australia and overseas.
Established in January 1942, just days after the Japanese bombing of Darwin, the squadron played an important role in Australia’s air capability during World War 2. This included helping repatriate Australian prisoners of war from Singapore and supporting the formation of the British Commonwealth occupation force in Japan.
Then, in 1959, the squadron became the Air Force’s official VIP fleet operator, tasked with transporting visiting heads of state and other dignitaries.
34 Squadron Commanding Officer Wing Commander Wayne Baylis said the Air Force’s first century is reflected in the historic outfit’s contribution.
“It is incredibly humbling to command 34 Squadron as we commemorate 80 years of excellence and dedication to providing a VIP transport service to the Australian Government,” Wing Commander Baylis said.
“The ground support staff, crew attendants and pilots have consistently demonstrated a high level of skill and professionalism.
“When our leaders travel abroad, they represent not only Australia but also its values, its interests and its people. By providing safe, secure and reliable air transport, 34 Squadron helps to ensure our leaders can engage with the world with confidence and purpose.”
Those who fly its fleet agree 34 Squadron is a special place to work.
“The changing demands we face is a major part of the job satisfaction for pilots and crew attendants at 34 Squadron,” Flight Lieutenant Richard Morris said.
“The locations we fly to range from small country towns to major international airports. The variation in our tasking and overcoming the challenges that creates, help us provide a key capability to the Australian Government.
“It’s this dynamic nature of the job that makes flying with 34 Squadron so exciting and rewarding.”
The feeling is shared by the cabin crew.
“34 Squadron is a high-tempo workplace and there is always something happening,” Leading Aircraftwoman Letisha Duveck-Smith said.
“We are privileged to fly the people we do, as not many people get the opportunity to say they interact with and serve the Governor General or the Prime Minister.
“We form unique bonds and create memories on trips, whether it be an overseas task or domestic. We also get to understand how the wider Air Force works as well as assisting with government and diplomatic engagements.”
Wing Commander Baylis said that while it was important to look ahead to 34 Squadron’s next chapter, this was also a time to reflect.
“In our 80th year, we pause and pay tribute to all current and past members of 34 Squadron for their achievements and sacrifices, and we honour all those who have lost their lives in service to the nation,” Wing Commander Baylis said.