Bob Steele, the son of a Methodist minister, was born in North Sydney on 03rd August 1945. He had a lifelong passion for justice, along with the desire to be a pilot, after reading Douglas Bader’s Reach for the Sky at age ten.

 Bob joined the RAN at HMAS Cerberus on 6 March 1966 and on 3 November 1967, was one of the first RAN group to graduate from flight training with the USN at Pensacola, NW Florida, USA.  Back at Nowra with 725 Squadron he completed an Anti-Submarine Warfare Operational Flying School course on the Wessex Mk 31A, and subsequently served on 725 and 817 Squadrons, including aboard the ‘Vung Tau Ferry’ (HMAS Sydney to Vietnam), before leaving the Navy in February of 1969.  

Bob then embarked on an amazing aviation career. He joined Bristow Helicopters in Sumatra in support of seismic survey parties in the Bell 206; and in the Bell 205 Huey, & the twin-engined Wessex 60, supplying & moving jungle heli-rigs. He Flew the Wessex 60 to offshore oil rigs from England, Ireland and Muscat – plus aerial crane work in England, and on relief work in Bangladesh after the 1972 civil war. In Sabah and Sarawak, he flew Alouette 3, FH1100, Cessna 185 & 206, and PA25 Pawnee; and in Nigeria the BN2 Islander, and offshore in Bell 206. Also flew the Jet Ranger in the desert and mountains of Saudi Arabia with geologists; chauffeuring Irish racehorse trainer Vincent O’Brien (and Sangsters) from near Cashel in County Tipperary; offshore and on geological surveys in WA, and on charter flights in the Northern Territory.

In the Hughes 500 he flew for TV channels in Melbourne.  With Air Nauru flew the F28 Fokker Fellowship around the Pacific. Bob particularly enjoyed delivery flights of Short Skyvans and 330s to South America and Australia while based in Belfast as a production test and training pilot; and later he ferried a 330 to Fiji. A most memorable ferry flight was in an old G44 Grumman Widgeon from Lagos in Nigeria, via Monrovia in Liberia, Villa Cisneros in Western Sahara, and Seville in Spain, to Shoreham in England.  

Bob spent years on night cargo in Australia, initially to Tasmania in the DC3, later the Argosy and DC9. He flew NSW and SA powerline patrols with MD500s; commuter flying with PA31-350 Chieftains, and charter with AS-350B Squirrel, in New Zealand.  He also flew tourists to Fiji island resorts with BN2 Islanders; charter in PNG with B206 Long Ranger; and finally with a BK117 for the Westpac Helicopter Rescue Service in Sydney.

Bob remained accident-free apart from an undercarriage collapse on 3 February 1986, during a controlled forced landing after an abrupt engine failure in a 2 seat Pterodactyl Ascender – an ultra-light aeroplane bought and assembled by a colleague LAME (aircraft engineer).  Despite being told he would never fly or even walk again, with his customary fierce determination he was back in the DC9 without limitation by December of that year.

His passion for justice continued throughout his life and he maintained his enthusiasm for running, another sign of his determination which was displayed following his accident when he completed, at reduced speed, the Adelaide Bay-City Fun Run and the Sydney City to Surf. 

Much to his regret, Bob never married but is remembered fondly by extended family and many friends. 

Bob left this world on 02 April 2021 after a life filled with adventure.  He was 75 years old.


We would like to invite you to join us as we lay Bob Steele’s ashes to rest.  He selected a niche near his parents at Glenmore Uniting Church, 96 Moores Way, Glenmore NSW 2570.

We will meet at 11am on 18 December 2021 for a short ceremony before the ashes are interred. We look forward to seeing you there. Please RSVP to:

Warm regards,
Family of Bob Steele