At age of 78, former astronaut tracker and Cold War defender is still looking skywards

Pascall Lunsford

Pascal Lunsford has always looked skywards.

In the 1960s, he radar-tracked astronauts on the Mercury and Gemini missions which led to the moon landing, and he serviced weapons control systems on aircraft waiting to intercept Russian bombers that might fly over Canada to invade the USA.

His dream of becoming a pilot was put on hold for another half a century, until recently, when his son began flight lessons.

Pascal not only followed his son into the cockpit to gain his recreational pilot’s licence. He has also enrolled in CQUniversity’s Bachelor of Aviation (Flight Operations) – based at Bundaberg Campus – with a goal to become a commercial pilot.

At the age of 78, and completing the second year of his degree, he acknowledges that time might catch up with him, but he’s determined to stay healthy and perhaps spend a few years flying freight aircraft.

“I’ve had a dream of flying since I was a kid – I could draw just about every aircraft there was – but my family did not have the money for me to pursue it,” Pascal says.

Instead, he joined the United States Air Force, to specialise on radar and weapons systems, from bases including Washington State and Hawaii. At one point, he worked on an F106 Delta Dart, which was the fastest plane in the world at the time.

Then came a stint with a private contractor, maintaining heavy ground radar for the Navy in Hawaii.

In the 1970s, Pascal formed an affinity with Australia, married an Aussie woman and moved Down Under for a new phase of his life.

He spent two decades as a dialysis machine technician, working across NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory, before taking a contract in the same field in Guam.

“When I retired, I was determined not to get bored, and to keep my brain working, so the CQUniversity course has been fantastic, especially since I’ve been helping to promote the course to schoolkids,” Pascal says.

“Instead of talking to people in an old people’s home, I’m out talking to young people who have a lot of get up and go and they kind of drag you along with them.

“Current Aviation students are lucky to have access to courses like this. I would have loved to have this opportunity to study earlier in my life.”

Pascal is now looking forward to boosting his flying hours as he gets deeper into his CQ University program next year.