From supersonic jets to a motorhome

9 February 2017

Dominion Post, 8 February 2017

When Jon Eyley had the right stuff his call-sign was "killer".

For the past decade, Killer has lived and breathed safety as the head of such things at Wellington Airport.

Now Killer's career - which saw him fly just above a Middle Eastern motorway, stare down Cold War Russian planes, hit 1.6 times the speed of sound and get his head around New Zealand's health and safety laws - is ending.

In his breeze-block office looking out over Wellington Airport's tarmac, on his 60th birthday, Eyley is days away from wrapping up a varied career in aviation and heading off to tour Europe with his wife in a motorhome.

His career began as a British Royal Air Force pilot when he was aged 19.

He had to be on "quick reaction alert" during the fall of the USSR in the early 1990s, which meant going from sleep to being kitted-out and ready to fly his F4 Phantom plane in five minutes.

One of those occasions saw him escort a Russian "Bear" bomber - technically a Tupolev Tu-95 - for five-and-a-half hours on its way from Russia to Cuba as it passed through British air space.

"I won't go into the ins and outs of how you hold on to your nether regions."

It was during his three years in the Dubai Air Force that he enjoyed his most adrenaline-pumping moment, as he flew low and fast over the undulating Abu Dhabi highway in a country with no minimum flying restrictions.

"It was a lot of fun," he says.

A decade ago, after stints with the Royal New Zealand Air Force in Ohakea, he began a civilian career at Wellington Airport, where he would go on to become the safety and security manager.

"It's anything but boring," he said in his office, which sports the very-latest in health and safety posters.

The biggest drama in the job was about three years back when a chunk of metal was found on the runway.

"When you find something like that, Concorde goes straight to your mind."

Concorde flight 4590 crashed after hitting a piece of metal on a Parisian runway in 2000, effectively spelling the end of the supersonic airliner.

Unlike that killer piece of metal in Paris, the one in Wellington was tracked down to the plane it fell from before it caused any damage, Eyley says.

These days, the modern day Chuck Yeager is settling down to a quieter life as he looks forward to his first year of retirement and seeing Europe by campervan house boat.

It will mean Jon "Killer" Eyley - the man who has flown mach 1.6 - will be captaining a boat going four miles-per-hour.

"It's the fastest way of slowing down," he says.

By Tom Hunt.  Read original article here

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