Capt David Jacobson

TAA/Australian Airlines – Qantas Airways Ltd  

David Jacobson retired from QANTAS Airways Ltd in 2010 after 40 years of airline flying with the company and its domestic predecessors, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA)/Australian Airlines Ltd. Having flown 24,000 hours (including 4,900 hours of flight instruction and more than 15,000 hours on the B737- much of it as a training and check and training captain), he retired totally fulfilled. However, he always remains an aviator at heart.

He also remains dedicated to boosting aviation safety and efficiency – particularly by encouraging the aviation industry to take its greatest ever single step in improving landing safety.

This step is something David saw lacking back in the very early days of his aviation career.

David Jacobson 1970

David’s early career


In 1965, aged 17 years, David commenced flight training at Moorabbin Airport, Melbourne. After qualifying for an Unrestricted Private Pilot Licence, he was awarded a Commonwealth Flying Scholarship, which subsidised part of his Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) training costs.

Having achieved a CPL and C-Grade Instructor Rating, he then instructed on light aircraft ranging from Beechcraft and Cessna to Piper, Auster and Tiger Moth. In 1970 he joined Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA), flying as First Officer on F27, DC-9 and B727 aircraft, before achieving Initial Command on the F27, in 1982.

Although David thoroughly enjoyed short haul operations at TAA, he retained a passion to participate in aviation at a grass-roots level; so in 1983, he joined the RAAF Point Cook Flying Club as a part-time instructor.

It was while teaching at Point Cook that David became puzzled by the fact that there was no definitive, universal landing technique. Even more puzzling, he recognised that this manoeuvre — so critical to the safe and satisfactory conclusion of every flight — had attracted little serious thought and attention. Convention dictated that pilots mastered landing on the basis of feel and guesswork focussed on a vertical flare height assessment — a situation that had gone unchanged since the beginning of aviation.

And even earlier

The original inspiration – 1965 

Long before his earliest days of flying, David found inspiration in a film about the 1943 ‘Dambusters raid by No. 617 Squadron, RAF, in which Lancaster bombers destroyed the walls of the Mohne and Eder Dams in Western Germany.

The operation used ‘bouncing bombs’ which skipped along the reservoir’s surface. For these to be effective, the pilots needed a way to satisfy the precise and pre-determined bomb release height – above still water and at night. As the barometric altimeters of the day lacked sufficient accuracy, two spotlights were mounted under each aircraft fuselage so that, at the correct height, their light beams would converge on the water’s surface. In other words, height was determined by simple triangulation. The bombsight also used this triangulation principle, applied towards the dam walls.

During 1965, while learning to fly at 18 years of age, that highly effective use of triangulation became David’s inspiration. On closer scrutiny of the ‘Dambusters’ methods, David realised that in a landing situation an accurate flare fix could be derived from a triangulation between a pilot’s eye path and a supplementary, pre-calculated longitudinal point on the runway centre-line, positioned short of the aim point. But that’s as far as it went, at that time.

Much later, in 1985, armed with 20 years experience on both large and small aircraft and using the original inspiration as his working concept, David researched and developed a new flare technique, which he published as a paper for the conference proceedings of the 1987 ‘Australian Aviation Symposium — Innovate or Enervate’ in Canberra. This technique later became known as The Jacobson Flare.

Sharing the news

Developing the Jacobson Flare  

The Jacobson Flare attracted immediate attention. For the first time, it enabled the landing manoeuvre to be taught and learned as a logical skill, with pilots achieving earlier and consistently accurate results; rather than as an art to be mastered eventually.

Since 1987, David has guided several hundred airline and general aviation pilots flying many different aircraft in applying The Jacobson Flare. Several flying colleges and schools have adopted The Jacobson Flare as standard technique, resulting in significant reductions in average times to first solo and therefore training costs, not to mention reduced stress and damage to aircraft.

Industry recognition


In 1996, following the merger between Australian Airlines Ltd (formerly TAA) and Qantas Airways Ltd, David was presented by Qantas with a Customer Excellence Award, “In recognition of outstanding service to Qantas Airways and its customers.”

In 1997 the value of The Jacobson Flare was recognised by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), which invited him to present at their annual series of seven Flight Safety Seminars (FSS) around Australia.

The Aviation Safety Foundation Australia (ASFA) presented David with a Certificate of Air Safety in 1998 for The Jacobson Flare “in recognition of his outstanding contribution to Air Safety.” He was also honoured by The Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators (GAPAN), London UK, with the Master Air Pilot Certificate (MAP) No 832 in 1999.

David continued to fly commercially and in 2001, he was promoted from Training Captain to Check and Training Captain, B737. In February 2002, he was a member of the operating crew which ferried the first Qantas B737-800, VH-VXA, to Australia from Seattle, USA, becoming one of the first 4 instructors on that variant.

By 2004, a specifically tailored version of The Jacobson Flare was introduced as the standard training technique in the Qantas B737 full-flight simulator syllabus for the revised all-variant composite conversion for the B737-300/400/800. It remains in use.

Master Air Pilot:


In an interesting quirk of administrative fate, for the record, David’s Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) number, is clearly a ‘collector’s item’: 007008.

In 1999, David was honoured by The Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators (GAPAN), London UK, with the Master Air Pilot Certificate (MAP) No 832.

On 23 June 2015, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society – a highly prestigious recognition from the world’s leading aviation-oriented learned society.

He was presented with the FRAeS certificate in Melbourne on 7 October 2015, immediately preceding his delivery of a very well-received presentation of the Jacobson Flare to the RAeS Melbourne Branch.

David is now looking forward to contributing further to the aims and aspirations of RAeS members.

* Fellow (FRAeS) ‘Fellowship is the highest grade attainable and is only bestowed upon those who meet the requirements for Member and who can also demonstrate that they have achieved one of the following in the profession of aeronautics or aerospace:

  • Have made outstanding contributions;
  • Have attained a position of high responsibility in an influential role; or
  • Have had long experience of high quality’

Do you want to experience, more often, that great feeling of fulfilment derived from executing consistently beautiful landings?

Read what pilots of all levels of experience have to say about the Jacobson Flare technique and the App, on our Testimonials page.

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