Captain David Jacobson

TAA/Australian Airlines – Qantas Airways Ltd  

Captain David Jacobson retired from QANTAS Airways Ltd, after 40 years with the company and its illustrious Australian domestic predecessors. He had earlier commenced his dream job as a pilot with Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA)/Australian Airlines Ltd in 1970. He logged 24,000 hours (including 4,900 hours of flight instruction and more than 15,000 hours on the B737. Moreover, much of this was flown as a training captain and check-and-training captain which regarded among the most satisfying chapters of his career. Another career highlight was founding (in 1991) and serving as Founding Co-ordinator for PAN (Pilots Assistance Network) in Australian Airlines. He retired totally fulfilled, yet always remains an aviator at heart.

He also remains dedicated to boosting aviation safety and flight training efficiency. Since 1985, he has been encouraging the aviation industry to take its greatest ever single step in improving landing safety.

As a matter of fact, this step is something David saw lacking, back in the very early days of his aviation career.

Captain 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.


A puzzle

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.

Captain David Jacobson 1966

And even earlier

before the 1965 original inspiration 

An inspiration

Long before his earliest days of flying, David was intrigued by the celebrated 1955 film, The Dambusters.

RAF 617 Squadron Lancaster bombers breached the walls of the Mohne and Eder Dams in Western Germany, in May 1943.

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

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 an accurate flare fix for landing could be derived. It applied 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, David was well-armed with 20 years’ experience on both large and small aircraft. Using the original inspiration as his working concept, he researched and developed a new flare technique.

He published 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.

Captain David Jacobson 1985 The Jacobson Flare Story

Sharing the news

Captain David Jacobson developing the Jacobson Flare  

The Jacobson Flare attracted immediate industry attention. For the first time, it enabled the landing manoeuvre to be taught and learned as a logical skill. Pilots were now achieving earlier and consistently accurate results. This began to dispel the entrenched convention that landing is an ‘art’ to be mastered eventually, at some indeterminate time. But by no means fully – YET.

Since 1987, David has guided several hundred airline and general aviation pilots, in many different types, applying the Jacobson Flare.

Several flying colleges and schools have adopted The Jacobson Flare as standard technique.

They have made significant reductions in average times to first solo, training costs, and reduced stress and damage to aircraft.

Captain David Jacobson Woomera 1993

Industry recognition


In 1996, Captain David Jacobson was presented by Qantas Airways Ltd 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). David was invited to present it, 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. He was awarded 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. In doing so, he became 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.

Captain David Jacobson 1996

Master Air Pilot:

Captain David Jacobson ATPL, MAP, FRAeS


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

In 2012, David collaborated with Jamie Durrant, Director of Essentials Magazine, in a new chapter of the Jacobson Flare Story. Together, they produced the Jacobson Flare App for iPad, released in June 2014.

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’

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