WONZ 232 – Gulf War 30th – W/C Bob Henderson

Guest: Wing Commander Bob Henderson, RNZAF, retired

Host: Dave Homewood

Recorded: 5th of January 2021

Released: 17th of January 2021

Duration:  1 hour 45 minutes 33 seconds

In this episode Dave Homewood talks with former RNZAF Wing Commander Bob Henderson, who was the Commanding Officer of No. 40 Squadron RNZAF from 1989-1993.

Bob discusses his Royal New Zealand Air Force career, flying the Douglas C-47 Dakotas, Fokker F-27 Friendships, and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, etc. But a fair amount of the interview focuses on his experiences as the mission commander for New Zealand’s transport commitment to Operation Desert Storm. Under Operation Fresco, two of No. 40 Squadron’s Herk’s were working alongside five RAF C-130’s, based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Bob headed up one of the crews that flew the two RNZAF Hercules into the war zone on a daily basis through Operation Desert Storm. A fascinating and largely untold story of New Zealand’s experience in the First Gulf War.

Bob also discusses his subsequent aviation career with Air New Zealand, and in world gliding circles.

A note: Just confirming some dates that were questioned in the interview – the ground war finished on the 28th of February 1991 and Bob’s crew arrived back at RNZAF Base Whenuapai on the 12th of April 1991.

This episode is available both as an audio podcast and as a YouTube video. It was recorded using Zoom, so the visual quality is not 100%.

Above: Bob and his crew at King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, during Operation Desert Storm. No. 40 Squadron RNZAF Lockheed Hercules NZ7003 is behind them. L-R: Back; Flight Sergeant Bruce Melvin (Flight Engineer), Sergeant John Buchler (Air Loadmaster), Wing Commander Bob Henderson (Detachment Commander and aircraft captain). Front; Flying Officer Kevin McEvoy (Navigator), Sgt Ty Cochran (Air Loadmaster), and Flying Officer Mike Morgan (Co-Pilot).

Above: “RAF Operations Desk” – the centre of operations for the RAF/RNZAF C-130s. This was Bob’s RAF ‘oppo’, Wing Commander Peter Bedford.

Above: A Kuwait Desert Landing Strip – the view out the front window of the C-130 while sitting on one of the numerous 3000 ft long sand strips the RNZAF Herks used in the Kuwait desert to achieve troop changeovers.

Above: Bob, left, on the ground at Kuwait International Airport with RAF Group Captain Geoff Simpson, 1st of March 1991.

Above: The official homecoming at RNZAF Base Whenuapai. From the left are the RNZAF Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Peter Adamson, Bob’s wife Eileen Henderson, W/C Bob Henderson, and Air Chief Marshall Sir Patrick Hind, RAF.

Above: Bob’s welcome home from his daughters Tanya (left) and Kelly (right) after he landed Whenuapai.

All photos kindly supplied by Bob Henderson.

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