9 Oct 1999 – 38SQN and 35SQN deploy to East Timor
On this day in 1999, members of 38SQN and 35SQN deployed to Dili, East Timor as part of INTERFET. A dozen technicians and an Army Ground Liaison Officer travelled from Darwin to Dili on a RAAF C130. Two Caribous were flown from Darwin to Dili the next day (10 Oct) and flying ops in the country commenced on 12 Oct.
In the month leading up to the deployment, Caribou flights from Darwin to East Timor had occurred. These supported SF operations and repatriated some East Timorese who had previously fled the country. None of these earlier Caribou flights remained overnight or refuelled in East Timor and crews were faced with the prospect of insufficient fuel to make land in the event of an engine failure for a period of the return journey.
Once deployed to East Timor, Caribou operations occurred as “86 Wing, Detachment C” and were initially based in Dili, living and working from tents next to the busy runway. The Detachment later moved to Bacau and increased in size to four aircraft. At Bacau most aircrew lived in a converted bathroom, while the technicians lived in a building that should have been condemned. The Detachment finally moved backed to Dili and living conditions improved when air conditioned ATCO huts were provided. All 35SQN personnel were transferred to 38SQN in 2000 and the last 38SQN Caribou left East Timor on 25 Feb 2001.
The Caribou proved ideal at operating in the mountainous tropical island nation, to rudimentary airfields, and achieved a high rate of mission success. At times the Caribou was the only link between Dili and the south of the island when rain cut roads, washed out beach landings and prevented helicopters from flying due to cloud cover across the high terrain. Tactical, fixed-wing transport again proved its worth, carrying out the unglamorous but vital tasks.
Maliana Airfield, East Timor
Good day John and Sambo,
Thought I would give you an update on the 75th Anniversary function. It was a very enjoyable night. We were seated with CAF AIRMSHL Leo Davies, his wife Rhonda, and CO 35SQN WGCDR Jarrod Pendlebury and his wife Selda. We were able to talk with them a bit but they were circulating around as you might imagine. We were given a great welcome and I got some good feedback on my talk which was on behalf of the RTFV/35SQN Association. They put us up in the Novotel at Castle Hill which was great as I am a bit hesitant to drive long distance at night now in case I fall asleep. In short we were very well looked after.
My talk was historical, Jarrod spoke of the present and Leo spoke of the future. We were each given 10min for our talk. I have attached a copy of the basis for my talk for your information. Maybe it is not 100% accurate working from memory but I did cross-check it as much as I could during its preparation. Jarrod indicated that the squadron was very happy with the C27J Spartan. Either he or the CAF expressed the view that it was not really a Caribou replacement nor a small C130 but rather a tactical transport with its own place in the air force which will continue to evolve with time.
I did send in quite a few photos from my own slides collection and from others but they were not included in the slide show. However, they should now be in the 35SQN archives. Talking of photos I have established that the AWM photos taken in 1966 in Vietnam and covering Harold Holt’s visit may now be found at the following link: CLICK HERE
I have also sent a similar email to Don Pollock to show him the talk I gave in his place.
Thanks for the opportunity to attend on your behalf.
Hope you are well
75th Anniversary Address 35SQN 2017 – click here to view
Colours Parade in Richmond 2015
Vietnam Memories – in Black and White…
The one and only time a caribou has been hijacked!!!