"We Fly For All "

When Jamaica attained Independence in 1962, one of the responsibilities that the new Nation acquired was that of defence. It was soon realized that the newly formed Jamaica Defence Force needed air support. The Jamaica Air Squadron was therefore formed in early 1963 as a part of the Jamaica National Reserve by the then Chief of Staff Brigadier P E Crook, and hence became the first flying entity of the Jamaica Defence Force. Its first four pilots (Captains Garth Drew, Robert “Bobby” Dixon, John Harrison and Jack Oliphant) were enlisted from the Jamaica Flying Club, all of whom had been Commissioned Royal Air Force pilots (Dixon and Oliphant saw active service), and were the first flying instructors in Jamaica. They were later joined by Lieutenants Derrick Ffrench and Paul Stockhausen (both locally Commissioned Officers). The first Officer Commanding was Major Basil Thornton, who at the time was the Chairman of the Jamaica Flying Club. These pilots had to fly their own aircraft, as at the time the JDF had none.

On 03 July 1963, the Jamaica Air Wing was officially formed with Captain Victor Beek (on secondment from the Ministry of Education) as its first and only member. On the 09 July 1963, Jamaica received four Cessna 185B aircraft through a Military Assistance Package from the US Government. These aircraft were painted white with blue trimmings, and had the national colours painted in bands over the wings. These aircraft were commissioned as JDF A-1, A-2, A-3 and A-4, and had arrived with two US Air Force pilot instructors (Captains Ban Hubbard and Gene Terry) for conversion training. The first notable mission was flown on 17 August 1963 in search of a ganja boat registered as ‘NANA’. It was not until September that the first enlisted soldier (Lance Corporal Scott) was posted to the unit as a driver, and hence became the first airman.


The Jamaica Air Squadron initially operated these aircraft upon their arrival in Jamaica (since there was only one pilot in the Jamaica Air Wing at the time). They were eventually painted olive drab and taken over by the Jamaica Air Wing once additional Regular Force pilots were trained. The Jamaica Air Squadron then reverted to flying private aircraft belonging either to the club or to its members.