3 Squadron LIFETIMES
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Lyall KLAFFER achieved several “firsts” in the Air, flying various aircraft types, surviving several aircraft accidents and seeing combat in two wars. He had the rare distinction of flying three generations of fighter aircraft on operations: Mustangs in Korea; Vampires in Malta; and Phantoms in Vietnam.
Air Commodore Tim ALSOP, Commander Air Combat Group, noted: “Lyall’s career reads like the script of a Hollywood movie. …He played a role in some of the most significant events in our Nation’s recent history. It is upon shoulders such as these that the current Air Combat Group, and wider Air Force, now stand…”
Lyall was born in Prospect, SA, in
1928 and enlisted in the Citizen
Air Force in 1947 as an Aircraftman Radar Mechanic.
He was later selected for
RAAF pilot training, winning his wings in 1949. He was posted to
3SQN in Canberra, flying Mustangs. In September 1949 he survived
a mid-air collision, when a formation of 3SQN Mustangs swerved
to avoid a 3SQN Wirraway practising aerobatics. (Another Mustang
pilot, 3SQN Adjutant Graham EDWARDS, was killed, attempting to bale
Lyall was posted to Japan with 77 SQN when the Korean War broke out in 1950. He flew 105 missions in Mustangs and was awarded the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for a mission where he destroyed three anti-aircraft positions despite intense ground fire. After Korea, Lyall survived another Mustang crash-landing while with 24 SQN. In 1952 he converted to Vampire jets and joined 75 SQN in Malta - surviving his third crash-landing. In mid-1952 Lyall returned to Australia to serve as the ADC for Governor-General Sir William SLIM. In 1960, he was awarded the Air Force Cross for his service as a Flying Instructor at RAAF Base Williamtown. He later posted to Central Flying School, where he helped form the Telstars aerobatic team, flying Vampires. From 1965 to 1967, he was on exchange in the USA, flying RF-4C Phantoms. During this period, he completed a tour of Vietnam with USAF No.16 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron and flew 52 combat missions.
Lyall was the first RAAF pilot to fly the Phantom; first RAAF pilot to accrue 1,000 hours on the Phantom; and first military pilot to fly 1,000 hours on the RF-4C. He was the only RAAF pilot to have flown over Hanoi during the Vietnam War (out of Ubon, Thailand). In his later RAAF career, Lyall had postings to Amberley, serving as C.O. 6SQN; then Officer Commanding No.82 Wing, Butterworth and Canberra; before promotion to Air Commodore, as Base Commander RAAF Edinburgh, SA. (Where he accrued more than 850 hours on the P-3 Orion.)
He was farewelled at a funeral service in Adelaide
on December 8, 2021.
[Thanks to RAAF News for this Obit.]