Home' Defence Magazine : Defence Magazine Issue 2, 2108 Contents 48 Defence Issue 2 2018
HREE near-death experiences in the
space of five nights early in his Royal
Navy flying career made Graham
‘Dingah’ Bell’s fiancé fairly nervous.
About a month before marrying,
Dingah experienced an aircraft fire, followed by a
complete flight control and instrumentation failure in
a night hover, then a catastrophic failure of an engine
and main transmission failure.
“The latter resulted in me carrying out a night
ditching in the Arctic Sea in pretty interesting
conditions,” he says. “I was relieved when I
discovered all the crew escaped and survived
relatively unscathed, although my recovery via a
night winch was equally as interesting as the ditch.”
Dingah was flying Westland Sea King helicopters
again 48 hours later, but word has it his crew were
starting to draw lots as to who would fly with him
although none of these accidents were attributed
to pilot error. He later received an award for how
he handled the incidents – the techniques he and
his crew employed during the engine failure and
recovery remain the same techniques taught today.
Dingah is now the Defence Science and
Technology’s (DST) F-35 Electronic Warfare and
Reprogramming Research lead, working in the Joint
Strike Fighter Integrated Project Team (IPT).
His involvement with the F-35 began in 2008
when he posted to Washington as the IPT-lead for
international science and technology in the US F-35
Joint Program Office and continued with his return to
Australia in 2012.
“An opportunity to work in a program that has the
enormity of the F-35 acquisition is something to be
valued,” he says.
Dingah is also the Project Director of Program
Heikick, a research program that brings together
various scientific projects associated with improving
the understanding of fifth-generation platforms’
dependencies on data and intelligence mission data.
“My role was initially as a reprogramming and
electronic warfare data ‘trouble shooter’, which led
to my inception and management of Heikick, which
involves asking the awkward questions in a quest to
determine and reveal the sometimes inconvenient
truth,” he says.
As a result, DST is now developing a world-
class research capability in fifth-generation systems
data, researching data sharing, management and
data sufficiency, based at DST Edinburgh in South
Dingah started his career as a cadet with the
British Overseas Airways Corporation in 1970;
however, after being offered a commission into the
Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, he joined the Royal
Navy in 1972. After graduating from the Britannia
Naval College and “seemingly endless” flying
training, he became an anti-submarine warfare pilot
in the midst of the Cold War.
“While incredibly exciting, a memorable career
low was being qualified to load, arm, carry and
deploy nuclear weapons at the age of 22,” he says.
OVER AND OUT
After a long and successful career in Defence, a former chopper pilot is calling it quits
By Alisha Welch
In early 1980 he transferred to the Royal
Australian Navy and he and his wife arrived at then-
Naval Air Station (NAS) Nowra with their baby
daughter and six suitcases.
Various deployments and postings followed,
including management roles in Capability Systems,
a posting to Washington working with the Naval
Attaché in the Australian Embassy, a command
stint back at NAS Nowra as the Executive Officer,
directing air operations as the Commander (Air),
completion of a Bachelor of Aviation and some time
as the Assistant Science Adviser to Navy.
In 2007 Dingah decided to leave the Navy “for no
other reason than to access my pension, but I had no
desire to go out to grass”.
But the enticement of a bit of civvy flying wasn’t
“For me, flying without an operational objective is
a recipe for boredom and a likely avoidable accident,”
he says. “Somehow I ended up interviewing for the
position of Chief Staff Officer to the Chief Defence
Scientist and, after a few more interesting moments,
here I am.”
Retiring at the end of this year, Dingah looks
back fondly on nearly 50 years in aviation.
“I have faced and sadly witnessed death on too
many occasions but I believe that is life’s education
at work and not something to get hung up about,” he
“I have also made some really good friendships that
endure beyond the workplace. Add to that a wonderful
wife and our three sensational children who are each
respected and successful in their chosen fields, and
now three grandchildren, the picture is nearly complete
for a long and hopefully active retirement.”
and (below) in
his earlier days as
a Navy pilot.
Links Archive Defence Magazine Issue 1 2018 Navigation Previous Page Next Page