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From Libya to Lakewood

Rest in peace Louise - 29/12/2017

Bob and Louise Young can hardly be described as having led an ordinary life. Apart from amassing a lifetime of flying hours, Bob has flown for Colonel Gaddafi and both have travelled extensively, Bob as a pilot and Louise as a flight attendant with British Caledonian and Qantas. Now, with the dramatic backdrop of Snowy Mountains and a bracing climate, comes a whole new adventure.

Born and raised in England, Bob attended grammar school in Essex before attending flying school in Oxford in 1965 and 1966. He was partly sponsored by an airline and began flying in 1967.

1968 saw him in Libya working for Court Line Aviation (who had the contract to the Libyan Royal Family) flying as co-pilot in Falcon 20 and LearJet aircraft until September of 1969, when Colonel Gaddafi staged a coup. At this stage the Royal Family were aware of trouble brewing and part of Bob's work was to take the King's officials to Greece and Turkey to negotiate for possible alternative homes for the Royal family.

When the coup occurred, Bob was flying from Benghazi to Tripoli (unaware of unfolding events on the ground) to pick up a member of the Royal Family. On arrival at Tripoli, they were told that the army had taken over the control tower and they were denied permission to land. They then diverted to Wheelus where there was a big USAF base close to Tripoli but on final approach to landing there, they were told that the Libyan Army was in the guard house on the base and had issued orders that no aircraft were permitted to land there either. The decision then was to return to Benghazi and on the way there, Bob and the crew attempted to ascertain what was happening from the main air traffic control centre for the area in Malta but they had no clue.

On landing at Benghazi owing to a curfew in place, they were unable to leave the airport. Bob then listened to the BBC World Service on the aircraft high frequency radio and finally learned then that a coup was taking place in Libya.

Initially, it was claimed to be a bloodless but it transpired that lives were lost during the events and afterwards. Opponents found themselves incarcerated; some of whom died in Jail and what few survivors existing now, are probably still imprisoned to this day.

Of Gaddafi, Bob said: “He spoke some English. One of the interesting things about Gaddafi was that he was trained by the British Army at Mons (Officer Cadet School) and apparently, part of the exercise or projects they did at Mons and Sandhurst (Royal Military Academy) for foreign (military) officers was how to run a coup. So, he obviously did well at that!”

There was always a certain mystery about the nature of this type of flying in Libya. The identity of the passengers was not always divulged to the flight crew until they boarded. “Neither did we know our destination until we got them on the aeroplane.” all in the interests of security.  This was a protocol that was to continue after the coup.  As well as Libyans, other VIP's from all over the Middle East including Arafat and others formally or still in power in that part of the world were guests on the Presidential flights

Bob left Libya at the end of 1970. On return to the UK Bob continued to fly for Court Line as a Co-pilot on British Aircraft Corporation 1-11 aircraft (BAC 1-11). Unfortunately for Bob, as he was about to become a captain on BAC 1-11s, the airline went bankrupt in 1974. Not being one for sitting around waiting for something to happen, he went to the United States and obtained his ATP and an American Flying Instructor's Rating in California. He worked there in this capacity for six months and freelanced flying for a guy who owned two  luxuriously equipped BAC 1-11's which only had19 seats and a bedroom suite .

It was at about this time when British Caledonian contacted Bob through a friend and offered him a job.  He then flew BAC 1-11s until the end of 1977, then transferring on to Boeing 707s for three years. DC-10 as Co-pilot was next in line and then back to BAC 1-11s, promoted to Captain. After a very short time returning to DC-10's this time in command. All together Bob flew DC 10's for nineteen years.” A beautiful and unjustifiably maligned airplane” In 1988, British Airways took over British Caledonian which resulted in Bob eventually flying Boeing 747s, based in London but commuting from America. After reaching their compulsory retirement age Bob left BA and went to Asiana Airlines (Korea) for a further three years flying 747s.  For the last six years of his airline career Bob and Louise had been living in France (Normandy) and Spain (Costa del Sol).  In 2004 Bob and Louise moved to Australia.

Bob and Louise first met in the galley of a DC-10 in 1986 at Kano Airport in Nigeria. Bob was Captain of the aircraft and Louise was on her first trip as cabin Supervisor.  A globetrotting romance ensued for some years until they were eventually married in Sydney in 2000 in between back-to-back trips - but not before airline-related glitches meant that they almost missed their wedding!

Louise eventually moved to Qantas and one of the highlights of this phase of her career was being rostered for the Qantas 75th Birthday Flight on 16h November 1995 which had been organised to commemorate the anniversary with a Boeing 747-300 travelling from Sydney to Winton with a flyover at Longreach before continuing to Sydney via Brisbane.

Initially on arrival in Australia, Bob and Louise lived in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney before deciding that it was the open space and cool climate that they really yearned for and the Snowy Mountains seemed to answer their calls. In 2009 they made the move and relocated to Jindabyne.

It was also during 2009, that Bob completed his Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus) and is currently in the process of qualifying for his RA-Aus Instructor approval.

Like Bob, Louise has special connections to Libya and has spent a good portion of her lifetime in the air. On 7th February 1985 as a flight attendant with British Caledonian, Louise was involved in the flight which eventually returned four British hostages held in Libya. Their freedom had been successfully negotiated with Gaddafi by the Special Envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Terry Waite. He accompanied the men home on the emotionally charged flight.

Today, Louise is involved in the Jindabyne community having opened her own business, Tapas Flores located next door to the Banjo Paterson Inn. She was also instrumental in the Jindabyne Mahjong Club being founded.

Bob Young doesn't like idle time get the better of him. Apart from resuming flying, he has also taken on the position of President of the Jindabyne Aero Club, an organisation he is very passionate about and one that will benefit greatly from his experience, involvement and keenness to see the aero club increase its profile within the community.  Bob wants the Jindabyne Aero Club to gain a satisfactory long term and stable tenure for the Jindabyne Randall Community Aerodrome so that the Club can develop the facility to its fullest potential. Currently Bob is guiding the organization of the Club's 21st anniversary celebration with a weekend of Open Days and a fly in scheduled for April 26 and 27, 2014.

Written by John Keighly


Bob and Louise Young

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