Research uncovers link between Fighter World in Williamtown with veteran RAAF pilot Don Newton

HISTORY: Veteran RAAF fighter pilot Don Newton holding a picture of himself, taken in 1958, at Fighter World. Mr Newton, 68, flew the aviation museums two Sabre jets. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts
HISTORY: Veteran RAAF fighter pilot Don Newton holding a picture of himself, taken in 1958, at Fighter World. Mr Newton, 68, flew the aviation museums two Sabre jets. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Tens of thousands of visitors file through the doors of Williamtown's iconic Fighter World museum each year, but very few would have the honour of flying one of the dozen or so meticulously restored aircraft on display.

Veteran RAAF fighter pilot Don Newton, who served his country from 1958 to 1964, is an exception.

In fact, the 86-year-old has the rare distinction of having flown the pair of Sabre fighter jets proudly on display at the museum next to Williamtown RAAF Base, including the restored aircraft which sat on a pole at Raymond Terrace's Bettles Park for decades before being transported to Fighter World.

"I flew 350 hours on the Sabres both here and overseas," Don Newton recalled on a visit to the aviation museum organsied by his son Steven Newton and museum manager Bernie Nebenfuhr.

Steven had figured out through his own military research - by checking the identification numbers - that his father had indeed flown the two Sabre jets at Fighter World.

"They were a beautiful machine and exciting to fly," Mr Newton said. "They were the last of the pilot's airplanes... you flew it... unlike the modern planes which are controlled by the push of a button."

Born and raised in Sydney, Mr Newton graduated from Sydney Tech high and university with a civil engineer's degree. His passion, however, was flying and after gaining his private pilot's licence he decided to join the Air Force on a whim.

He enlisted in 1958 and was soon flying a range of Australian warbirds including the Mustang, Iroquois, Vampire, Wingjeel, Dakota and eventually the Sabre.

"I completed 350 hours on the Sabres, including the two on display here in Williamtown," Mr Newton said.

"My most memorable time with the Sabres was flying out of Butterworth [in Malaya] where we were based for two years, onto Singapore, Bangkok and eventually to Ubon in Thailand in the lead up to the Vietnam War.

"There were 10 of us and it was a rather dangerous mission."

RAAF veterans Jim Treadwell and Don Newton who flew the two Sabres on display at Fighter World. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

RAAF veterans Jim Treadwell and Don Newton who flew the two Sabres on display at Fighter World. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

With his wife Shirley pregnant with the couple's second child, the Newtons realised it was time to head back home to the peace and quiet of Sydney.

Mr Newton was employed by Qantas where he remained until his retirement in 1989.

His reunion with the Sabre jets coincided with a reunion of sorts with some of his fellow fighter pilots, including 89-year-old veteran ace Jim Treadwell, who had the distinction of flying the first ever Sabre built in Australia and first flew in 1953.

Australia's first Sabre, the A94-959, was flown from Laverton to Williamtown RAAF Base by Flight Officer Jim Treadwell in April 1957. It is the same Sabre was on display in Bettles Park and is now available to see outside the Williamtown aviation museum.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my visit today," Mr Newton said on his recent visit to Fighter World. "It was a bit of a surprise to see blokes like Jim and reminisce about our RAAF days. I think this will be a day I will treasure."

Comments