29 March 2017 marked 20 years since Old Boy John Paul ‘JP’ Conlan (1978) died in a hang glider accident in the Kimberley region of Western Australia at the age of 35. JP served as a fighter pilot with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) flying Mirages and FA/18 Hornets for numbers 3 and 75 Squadrons and rose to Executive Officer of 75 Squadron based in Katherine. He was also a Fighter Combat Instructor and spent two years on exchange with the US Marine Corps with VMFA 323 Squadron.
JP started at Churchie in grade 5 in 1971 and completed year 12 in 1978 with what was then known as a Tertiary Entrance (TE) score of 935. He was in Jutes house in the prep school and Mawson house in the senior school. He spent 18 months studying commerce law at the University of Queensland before he was accepted into the armed services.
The RAAF was not JP’s first choice however. He joined the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) as a naval aviator and was selected to fly A4 Skyhawks. He later transferred to the RAAF when the Government disbanded the fleet Air Arm in 1983/84.
JP played rugby union all through his time at Churchie and was a keen player of Aussie Rules for the Kenmore Bears and the University of Queensland. JP was a quiet achiever whose many years at Churchie shaped his success as a military aviator. He was an excellent surfer, lover of family and an all-round great guy. JP’s brother Matt, also a Churchie old boy (1985), served as a Northern Territory Government Minister in the Mills and Giles Governments between 2012 and 2015.
A plaque sits at JP’s crash site on the top of Mt Harrison on the Gibb River Road, near Kununurra in the Kimberley. His ashes were also spread there. The site boasts a spectacular vista of the Kimberley and is one of the most peaceful and spiritual places anywhere on Earth. Anyone from the Churchie Community is more than welcome to visit. JP would welcome the company, especially if you have a few Cooper’s Sparkling Ales in hand as this was his favourite drop. Please click here to contact the OBA office for details.
Still very much missed. RIP JP!
– above left: JP Conlan
– above right (L-R): Matt Conlan & fellow Old Boy Simon Plummer at the plaque on top of Mt Harrison