In their sub-conscious, Naval Aviators generally consider that, having survived the perils of Naval Aviation, they are safe from the ‘dangers of the air’. The fallacy of this belief was made evident when the many friends of Rob Partington heard that he had been killed in an aircraft accident in Victoria on 20th December 2002. An ATSB copy of the accident report can be found here.
Robin Nyren Partington was born in Melbourne in 1940 and joined the RAN College in 1954 as a thirteen year old entry. He was affectionately known as “Parto” for the rest of his naval career. After graduating in 1957 Rob’s career path followed the normal pattern for a junior officer until he volunteered to train as a pilot in 1962. As training of naval pilots had been terminated following the 1959 decision to scrap the Fleet Air Arm, Rob Partington’s pilot training took a most unusual track. He trained in the UK with Bristow Helicopters and from there was awarded his wings.
On return to Australia he converted to Gannets and joined 816 Squadron in mid 1964. His natural aptitude and zest for flying was recognised and in 1967 he completed a QFI course at East Sale. Postings as Senior Naval Officer at Point Cook and RAAF Pearce followed. After converting to the S2E (Tracker) Rob was first posted as Senior Pilot of VS816 and then became the Commanding Officer of the “Flying Tigers”.
Promoted to Commander in 1976 he served on the Aircraft Carrier Project in Navy Office and in London as the Aviation Officer on the Naval Advisers staff. It was in that position that I first met him when he interviewed me, a junior LEUT RN, for suitability for the RAN. In those days a Commander was closely aligned to God and I walked the long stretch of carpet to his enormous desk with a deal of trepidation. In typical Parto fashion he greeted me with a firm handshake, a cheery ‘G’day mate’, and the offer of a beer. It was ten in the morning and it gave me a lasting impression of both his humility as a person and the hospitality of Aussies.
A further promotion to Captain followed in 1984, and he then served in two postings in Navy Office before proceeding to Darwin as Naval Officer Commanding North Australia.
Promoted to one-star rank in 1990, Rob then served as Commodore HMAS Albatross and Naval Officer Commanding Western Australia, a position from which he retired from the RAN in 1995. For his contribution to Naval Aviation Rob was made a Member of the Order of Australia in January of 1990.
Rob Partington was a man of many skills. In addition to his exceptional flying ability he could easily dismantle and reassemble in working order, car engines, radios, computers and all manner of electric and electronic appliances.
After leaving the Navy Rob retained a close involvement in all aspects of aviation. His flying skills and his profound knowledge of aircraft operations meant his assistance and advice was constantly sought by many. He was a devoted family man, and left behind his loving wife Tina and children Cass and Chris.
Rob Partington’s name, and the high regard with which he is regarded, is remembered though the award of the Partington Shield, which is given annually to a civilian or military individual at HMAS Albatross who has made the most significant contribution to naval war fighting.
He was one of a rare breed of gentlemen, and his loss was deeply felt by many. Rest in Peace.