Meet John Laffan – soaring in his senior years


John Laffan is a former WWII Spitfire Pilot. He has had an extraordinary life, with most of it spent with a bird’s eye view on the world. He has great worldly knowledge, a sense of calmness and stories to tell until the sun sets – and then some.

John shares an insight into his life journey and how Home Nursing Group has helped him to continue to take flight in his senior years.

Growing up in Strathfield in Sydney, 96-year-old John Laffan has always been fascinated with airplanes. Fascinatingly, he got the opportunity to learn how to fly when he was 16 from lessons with World War I veteran, Howard Morris. When he turned 18, John too joined the Air Force and was stationed around Europe as a spitfire pilot.

On his return to Australia, John went to university but only stayed for two years. “I just couldn’t settle, I wanted to be flying.” He decided to drop out and began working as a crop spraying pilot and did this for two years.

John has had many interesting jobs as a pilot, namely, working for Qantas for ten years and then flying VIP planes for another ten.

JohnAfter meeting his wife, John decided he wanted to work on the land. They purchased a property near Barraba and ran cattle. After doing this for a couple of years, John received a call from the Australian Government and was asked to work as a Ferry Flyer where he would have to deliver government planes all around the world.

As cattle prices were low, John thought it would be a great opportunity. His wife stayed home to raise their children and look after the property; however, she did have the opportunity to join him on many trips.


After a very successful career flying and farming, at the age of 74 John decided it was time to retire. He and his wife tried for a coastal change for a few years, but it was not them. They moved to Armidale so they could be close to their children.

After moving to Armidale, John’s wife fell sick. It was then that they got onto Home Nursing Group.

“Home Nursing Group were amazing. They would come and clean the house and help with the physical side of caring for my wife,” says John.

John now spends his days catching up with friends and family and running errands around town. He believes that the key to his longevity is staying active and eating well. He looks forward to his days at the Men’s Shed where he teaches a cooking class.

Although John is still very active – he is still wheeling the chainsaw around – he believes that there is nothing wrong with asking for help. “I knew I would still need some help after my wife passed, so I kept them [Home Nursing Group] on. People shouldn’t be afraid to put pride behind common sense.”

John is still being asked to speak around the country on his achievements as a Spitfire Pilot and his role in Ferry Flying.  His most recent talk was held at Williamtown’s Royal Australian Airforce Base. He is one of only seven Australian World War II Spitfire pilots still alive. He truly has had an amazing life.