John Noel Gordon BELLAMY, AFC OAM (generally known as Noel Bellamy) was born on 3rd June 1928 at Drouin in Gippsland, Victoria and grew up in the Alice Springs area. His long and illustrious career in aviation started when he joined the RAAF in 1949, and continued until he was hospitalised early 1999. Some highlights of his RAAF service included:
1951 – Graduated from No 6 Pilots Course.
1952 – Posted to No 38 Squadron flying C47 Dakota aircraft. Later, attached to No 30 Communications Unit at Iwakuni, Japan, supporting operations in Korea.
1953 – Flying duties relating to the detonation of atomic bombs in central Australia.
1956 – Attained flying instructor qualification.
1957 – Training Officer and Instrument Rating Examiner in No 86 Wing, including VIP transport operations. Noel was also pilot to then Prime Minister (later Sir) Robert Menzies, Ministers of State and international dignitaries.
1958 – Involved in establishing the first C130 Hercules squadron (No 36) in the RAAF, including ferrying the aircraft from the USA and introducing operational and flight standards.
1964 – Introduced the first Caribou aircraft to the RAAF (No 38 Squadron) and established a training course for Caribou crews proceeding to Vietnam.
1965 – Posted to Vietnam as Flight Commander (Nov 1965 – July 1966) and flew about 500 operational sorties in Caribou aircraft.
1968 – 1970. 4 trips to Vietnam with 36 Sqn. (A Model Hercs).
Throughout his military career Noel was a dedicated and professional Air Force officer with exceptional aviation knowledge and skills. His philosophy, as a Training Officer, was to remove the mystery from sophisticated aircraft and their systems so that students could better understand and fly them and to imbue the highest standards of professionalism and flight safety. He achieved the highest qualifications available in the RAAF as both an operational pilot and a flying instructor. His attributes were recognised by the award of the Air Force Cross in 1971, shortly before he left the RAAF to take up a career in General Aviation. It is apparent that he carried these qualities with him into this new aviation arena.
On his departure from the RAAF in November 1971, Noel proceeded to Port Moresby in the (then) Territory of Papua and New Guinea (TPNG) to take up the position of Chief Pilot with Aerial Tours (later to become Douglas Airways).
With his previous experience flying RAAF Dakota, Caribou and Hercules aircraft in TPNG, Noel appreciated the need to establish and maintain the highest training and operational standards in this most demanding of aviation environments. That he achieved these objects within the constraints of commercial aviation is testified to by the fact that this Company, operating 17 aircraft, had no air safety incidents during his four years as Chief Pilot.
Returning to Australia in June 1975, Noel continued flying in General Aviation based at Archerfield (Brisbane), including a period as Chief Pilot, Chief Flying Instructor and Manager of Woodfall Aviation. However, his ambition (post RAAF) was to set up his own aviation business. In March 1979 he established the Archerfield Flight Centre, with all training and charter licences, operating from rooms in the old terminal building at Archerfield Airport. On 17 December 1980 he moved into his own building (officially opened by the then Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson) in a prominent position in the Archerfield complex, and the Archerfield Flight Centre became a well-known and respected flying training and charter establishment with all General Aviation training and flight test approvals.
Noel perceived deficiencies in the training of General Aviation pilots in Australia, and he set out to try and make a difference. He believed that he could provide the highest quality training at competitive prices, utilising appropriate syllabus structures and effective flight simulation for instrument flight training. To this end he pioneered the introduction of the integrated syllabuses for commercial licence and instrument flying training and searched the world for an effective but affordable ‘synthetic flight trainer’ (or flight simulator). He discovered the AST300 simulator produced by Aviation Simulation Technology in the USA – representing a generic light twin engined aeroplane with real aircraft instruments in a normal sized cockpit, and with the most realistic flight and navigation regimes he had seen. He purchased an AST300 for his own business, and became the AST distributor for the south west Pacific area.
It was not long before Noel Bellamy and his Archerfield Flight Centre gained a reputation throughout the industry for the best flying training and aviation services at affordable prices, attracting students and clients Australia-wide. However, he was still dissatisfied with some aspects of General Aviation, and voiced his opinions through the General Aviation Association (GAA). His administrative talents were soon recognised in the GAA and he was appointed, successively, Secretary to the Queensland Branch, Delegate to the National Council, Chairman of the Flying Training Division, Queensland Regional Chairman, Vice Chairman of the National Council and, finally, National Chairman. He was also a delegate to the AVIAC Council – advisers to the Federal Government on aviation matters. His advice and leadership saw a number of improvements in the General Aviation industry, particularly to the conditions of pilots and operators.
In July 1988 he was persuaded to move his office to the RQAC to oversee the multi-engine and instrument flying training there while still servicing his own clients. The RQAC also purchased his aircraft and AST300 simulator. Noel saw this as an opportunity to apply his training philosophies to a larger community. Under his guidance, using his syllabuses and the AST300 simulator, the RQAC soon became the premier flying training organisation in the area. Many pilots who had had difficulties achieving and/or maintaining an instrument rating or multi-engine endorsement appreciated Noel’s patience, understanding and uncompromising standards.
In 1991 Noel retired from active flying instruction and moved office from the RQAC to his home, to concentrate on the production of Operations Manuals for commercial flying operators while still maintaining flight test approvals as a ‘portable’ Approved Test Officer. Noel started producing Operations Manuals shortly after starting the Archerfield Flight Centre, when he realised how time consuming this task was and how little support was available to Chief Pilots whose time was generally fully occupied in day-to-day operational matters. He little realised then that within ten years he would be fully occupied producing manuals for the majority of General Aviation companies in Australia, from single aircraft charter and training operators to regional airlines flying modern jets, including fixed and rotary wing aircraft both land and water based. He was approached by several overseas companies seeking his assistance, and he was instrumental in getting Russian heavy lift helicopters on the Australian, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea registers. With his extensive military and commercial aviation experience and his exceptional knowledge of regulations and orders, Noel become something of a ‘guru’ in this field, producing around 40 different manuals per year.
One other area in which Noel’s talents proved invaluable was the organisation of air shows. In September 1990, Noel directed the Battle of Britain 50th Anniversary Air Show at Archerfield. His previous experience in military and civilian air shows and his acquaintance with appropriate aircraft owners and operators (both civil and military) ensured a widely acclaimed and highly successful air show which realised a profit of over $100,000, most of which was donated to nominated charities. This was followed by another major air show in May 1992 commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Australia Remembers Air Show in September 1995 commemorating the end of World War 2. For the latter he arranged for the legendary Bob Hoover to perform his immaculate “energy management” routine in a Shrike Commander, plus some aerobatics in a Trojan.
Since leaving the RAAF in 1971, Noel Bellamy dedicated his life to improving the lot of all people, but particularly pilots, involved in General Aviation. Whenever he perceived a significant problem in this industry he did something about it, sometimes to his personal cost. His particular concern was the poor standard of training and testing evident in some areas. With his depth of knowledge and experience, he was frequently consulted on General Aviation matters by people at all levels in the industry and government. Indeed he was considered by some to be a General Aviation icon.
In 1996, in recognition of his many contributions to General Aviation, Noel was awarded a well-deserved OAM. He is possibly the only person who has received such an award for services in this field. To know Noel was to admire his integrity, his dedication to excellence in affordable flying training, and his general professionalism. He was also very popular socially and had a wide circle of friends that extended well beyond the aviation fraternity.
There was much more to Noel Bellamy than these words could convey. For example, as a young man he was an Inter-Service athletics champion, holding a record in the long jump. He was also passionate about boating and fishing and constructed radio-controlled model aircraft and sailing boats – but had little time for these activities in his last few years. Many of his friends tried to persuade Noel to write his memoirs and we might have had some success had not his illness caught up with him so quickly.
John Noel Gordon BELLAMY, AFC OAM (generally known as Noel Bellamy) died in the Royal Brisbane Hospital early on the 21st June 1999, aged 71, after a protracted battle against throat cancer following which a funeral service was held at the Mount Gravatt Crematorium on Friday 25th June, followed by a “wake” at the Royal Queensland Aero Club (RQAC).
Thanks to Trevor Benneworth and the RAAF Radschool Magazine