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Veteran flyer celebrates 90 up for the RAAF

The Age

Friday April 1, 2011

By GEOFF STRONG

A YAK 52 is a Soviet-era military training aircraft that makes perfect sense to Col Griffin. He is 91 and began flying similar machines when he was 20. For most of World War II he continued flying them defending Britain against Germany.Yesterday he was a passenger in the Yak, which was part of the line-up of vintage aircraft celebrating the 90th anniversary of the RAAF at Point Cook.Mr Griffin was a policeman in South Australia when the war began and he applied to join the air force. After a training delay he was shipped off in late 1941 to Britain to train in various aircraft before he became part of an all-Australian squadron flying twin-engined Mosquito fighter-bombers for the British RAF."Originally I was involved in defensive operations, but eventually they sent us over with the bombers to harass the German fighters," he said yesterday. "I flew 43 missions in all. We were hit a number of times but without serious damage."He lent his aircraft to a friend, who crashed it in the ocean when trying to shoot down a German flying bomb and was killed.After the war Mr Griffin joined Australian National Airways, which was eventually taken over by Ansett, and flew a wide variety of aircraft, culminating in the Boeing 727 jet which he flew until his retirement in 1979. He has continued to fly. Now living in Gisborne, he owns a small two-seater RV6 aircraft as well as a share in the Yak.Mr Griffin said the aircraft was a real pleasure to fly.It was originally built in the Soviet Union in 1976 as a military trainer, but is now made in Romania and is popular with aircraft enthusiasts. Mr Griffin's aircraft is mainly used for "warbird" joy flights.The air force also marked its anniversary yesterday with a commemorative service in Canberra. RAAF chief Air Marshal Mark Binskin paid tribute to the many men and women who had lost their lives while wearing its light-blue uniform.He said it was people who made the RAAF so powerful. "Without people the air force is a collection of aircraft, buildings, budgets and regulations," he said. "It is important we remember those that came before us, and recognise the role they have played in our success." With AAP

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