Interview with Leigh Peddell, a former RAAF engineering, Caribou loadmaster and now Qantas worker. When not busy at Qantas, Leigh helps to keep the HARS Caribou fleet flying.

How did you become involved with the RAAF and flying, and at what age? My father was one of the original Department of Civil Aviation Flight Service personnel, setting up the Flight Service units in the 1930’s. He sparked my interest in aircraft, especially when we were stationed on Lord Howe Island in the mid 1960’s where I often got to wander around on the Ansett Sandringham flying boats while they were being serviced.I joined the Airforce Cadets, or AirTC as it was known then, in 1974. I joined the RAAF in 1978.

Leigh 1980s

What squadron and what timeframe did you fly in the RAAF? Served in the RAAF 1978 to 1986. Completed my trade training at RAAFSTT Wagga, then served as an Airframe Fitter at No. 2 Aircraft Depot, No. 486 Squadron and then as a Flight Engineer at No. 38 Squadron. I was injured on the job and subsequently retired early.

How did you find learning to be a Flight Engineer/Loadmaster – going through the stages of training was it easy or challenging for you? Good training offered by the Airforce made a difficult task a bit easier. A large amount of information to memorise and integrate in a short period of time. The Airforce requires high pass marks for all their examinations, some of them 100%, so I find it amusing when my children have university exams with a 50% pass mark.

What did you find the most enjoyable aspect about your roles? Travelling around Australia, interacting with many different service people and civilians. Providing transport or national support (flood relief etc) work for varied situations.
Of course, the flying was pretty special.

Leigh 1980s-2

What is your most memorable flight experience that you would like to share? Couple of things I’m not sure we should mention come to mind, but I’ll say some of the memorable things were the night flying on clear nights, and the operations from rugged and steep “strips” which are be probably better characterised as paddocks on hill sides. I’d say our trip to Papua New Guinea for high altitude and mountain operations training was a stand out.

What skill have you gained from flying, that you may not of gained, if
you had not taken up flying? Exposure to navigation and flight operations in the RAAF gave me the background for my civilian position in the Flight Operations department of a major airline.

What is your most favourite aircraft and why? DHC-4 Caribous would, of course, have to be my favourite type. Amazing aircraft.


What did you do after you finished with the RAAF?  Worked in heavy jet maintenance for a couple of years, then continuing at Flight Operations running a computerised flight planning and operational information system for a major airline.

(Photo below of Leigh sticking out of hatch courtesy of Colin Turner-www.facebook.com/ColinTurnerPhotography/)

What got you involved with HARS and what is your role there? I went to show my wife what I used to do in the Airforce with the Caribous on display at HARS. I met an ex-RAAF pilot flying with HARS who asked me to join HARS as they were very short of any FLTENG/Loadmaster experience for the Caribou operations.


What goals have you got for the future with your aviation interests? Would like to see what other interesting classic aircraft I can get involved in operating.

Recently Leigh has refurbished a former RAAF HGU-26/P flight helmet for his own use while flying in the DHC-4 Caribous.

Leigh’s aviation career history

  • Joined the Permanent Air Force in 1978.
  • Recruit Training at Edinburgh, SA
  • Trade Training (Airframes) at Wagga Wagga – RAAF School of Technical Training
  • Posted to No. 2 Aircraft Depot at Richmond in 1979 – worked on C130 Hercules.
  • Posted to 486 Squadron at Richmond in 1981 – again working on C130 Hercules.
  • Posted to 38 Squadron at Richmond in 1983 – Training/duty as Flight Engineer – Caribou.
  • Discharged 1986 after a workplace injury.
  • Started working for QANTAS in 1986, been here ever since.