John grew up living on a variety of RAF stations and followed his Fathers love of all things aviation. However, eager to leave school at the very earliest opportunity he joined the Royal Navy in 1959 as a Naval Air Mechanic, but had to accept his second choice - junior mechanical engineer. He therefore worked on steam machinery on various ships until transferring to flying duties in 1968. Flying Training in those days was on the Chipmunk T10, Hiller 12E, Whirlwind 7 and graduating to the Wessex 5 as a Commando Pilot in 1970. Various helicopter jobs followed flying the Scout AH1, Wasp HAS1,  Gazelle HT2, Lynx HAS2 and Sea King HC4. Display flying started in 1973 with a Scout display during an exchange tour with the Army Air Corps in Germany and many other helicopter displays followed to this day, including leading the ‘SHARKS’ team in 1982.


In 1979 he started flying the Chipmunk again, air experience and glider tugging and accrued enough tailwheel hours over the next 7 years to impress the fixed wing ‘trapper’ into allowing him to fly the Swordfish. So the ‘Fish in 1986, which led to the Firefly in 1987 and Sea Furies in 1988. Despite a tour at Portland and a year at Culdrose flying the Jetstream he maintained his RNHF flying and came home to Yeovilton in 1991 to take over as CO of Heron Flight Jetstreams and Historic Flight. These posts he retained until leaving the service in 1994.


‘Civvy’ street began in the world of night freight, flying the old HP Herald from Bournemouth, which was ‘character building’ and great fun, if tiring. This lasted 3 ½ years, but jets beckoned and he joined Debonair as a direct entry Captain in 1997, flying the BAe 146. When Debonair sadly went bust in 1999 he joined Flightline and continued the diverse and most enjoyable lifestyle with them, operating all over Europe working mostly sub-charters for other airlines. However, after the third redundancy in 10 years, and now aged almost 60, he joined RN Historic Flight in January 2004 as the General Manager. Time to go home every night and lead a more normal lifestyle! He retired from ‘the office’ in 2009 and now just does the fun bits.


During the airline years John continued display flying for the Kennet collection, first on the Scout and then Piston and Jet Provosts Mk1 and 5, DH Venom and the Douglas Skyraider. In 2006 he added the Supermarine Seafire 17 to that list, in 2008 the Hawker Nimrod II and 2010 the Seafire 15. He is a Display Authorisation Evaluator for the CAA and retains a helicopter Instructor and examiner rating for the Scout and Wasp. At the last count he had 15,500 hours flying time and has completed around 650 displays in various aircraft.


John still  acts as a Pilots mentor for the RN Historic Flight, helping with the training utilising Harvard, Piston Provost and Chipmunk. He owns a Chipmunk for fun and commuting around the country.


John lives in Yeovil with wife Janet and has a son who flies AW189 helicopters for Bristows and a daughter who married a Kiwi and lives in New Zealand. Four excellent Grandchildren complete the package.

  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Twitter - White Circle

Photography:  John Dibbs, Richard Paver, Andy Annable, Jon Le Ray, Darren Harbar

Website ©  Boultbee Flight Academy Ltd