F-111 crew's 25th anniversary memorial service held at Guyra crash site

F-111 fighter/bomber number 127, the  aircraft that crashed near Guyra in 1993.
F-111 fighter/bomber number 127, the aircraft that crashed near Guyra in 1993.

A monument containing a plaque commemorating the short lives of Flight Lieutenants Jeremy McNess and Mark Cairns-Cowan, killed when their F-111C fighter/bomber crashed 4km north-west of Guyra, yesterday set the scene for a small, private service attended by family, friends and now ex-squadron members , who travelled to the crash site to remember the two on the 25th anniversary of their death.

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Flt Lt Cairns-Cowan's father travelled across from Forster to be at the service, along with some of Mark's school friends from Canberra and Armidale and air force collegues from Toowoomba and Brisbane.

Their memories stay with us. Once you come into a military family, we just all stick together and support each others families.

Col Coyne

"We are gathered here today to remember "C-C" and "Jezz", who lost their lives on this spot 25 years ago," said president of the Number 37 Squadron (RAAF) Association Col Coyne in his short speech.

"From the mid-70's through to the early-90's, the Australian Defence Force had a philosophy of 'Train for War, Fight for Peace’.  

"It was during one of those air force training missions this aircraft crash occurred - training to preserve world peace."

Mr Coyne said Flt Lt Cairns-Cowan left 37 Squadron to progress his career and fulfil his ambition to navigate and fly fast jets. He was posted away from those "lumbering" Hercules transports of Richmond, to the "fleet-footed" F-111s of No. 1 Squadron at Amberley.  

"But Mark maintained his connection with his old ‘trash hauler’ mates at 37 Squadron," Mr Coyne said. 

"In 1993 [he] utilised his ‘company taxi’, an F111, to fly from Amberley to Richmond in July 1993, to celebrate No. 37 Squadron 50th Anniversary," Mr Coyne said. 

A time later, while conducting a simulated bombing raid on Guyra, he was navigating F-111 number 127 when it went down. 

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