He’s 66 years old, a grandfather of four and the world’s oldest active fighter pilot according to the Guinness World Records.
Squadron Leader Phillip Frawley took the skies as a military aviator for the very last time on Friday 29 June 2018 having served a staggering 49.5 years within the Royal Australian Air Force and having flown more than 10,000 hours as a pilot.
“It’s been a special day but all things come to an end - that’s what’s happened to me today,” SQNDLR Frawley said.
“It has been wonderful, absolutely wonderful.
“I joined on the 10th January 1969 as a RAAF Apprentice and became an instrument fitter. With training, that was five years.
“From then on, everything seemed to happen in fives.
“In 1974 I was lucky enough to get on a pilots course, some would say lucky enough to pass one as well, but anyway.
“After pilots course, I came here to Williamtown to train on fighters but was unsuccessful the first time around so I went on the Hercules aircraft for the first five years.”
“Flew the Hercules for five years, thoroughly enjoyed that but always wanted to be a fighter pilot. So I reapplied and came back to Williamtown after I was successful, second time around.”
“Then I served five years on Mirages and spent another two and a half years at Point Cook as an instructor, then back to Williamtown, this time instructing on Macchi’s and then I was onto F/A-18’s. Flew F/A-18’s for another five years.”
With many years of instructing experience, SQNLDR Frawley went on to spend several years at 76 Squadron as Executive Officer and then Commanding Officer, before going to Saudia Arabia for another five years with his wife, Kerry-Anne.
“I came back here to 76 Squadron as a reservist in 2002 and I’ve been here ever since, for 16 years.”
Having served in the Royal Australian Air Force for over half of its 97 years, there is no doubt that SQNLDR Phillip Frawley has lived an exceptional life. From RAAF Apprentice, to pilot and instructor, SQNLDR Frawley has seen nearly five decades of change within Air Force.
“For me, within the area of fighter flying, the tactics have evolved over many, many years as the platforms have become more and more complex and more capable.
“For me as an instructor, it takes a bit more practice to deal with that digital stuff.”
Clearly those that can, teach, because SQNDLR Frawley has helped train almost 500 Air Combat Group pilots over the course of his career.
“For the high percentage of pilots in Air Combat Group, I’ve had some input to their training. I’ve trained 499 students…didn’t quite make 500.”
“That’s probably my best achievement.”
SQNLDR Frawley was able to share his final flight with graduating students of 57/58 Introductory Fighter Course in a 76 Squadron Hawk 127 Lead-in-fighter. With his wife Kerry-Anne and son Steven present, it was an emotional day as members of 76 Squadron said goodbye to an integral leader, teacher and friend.