All aboard in Townsville

This article has photo gallery Published on Mr Pup Elliott (author), LSIS Helen Frank (photographer)

Townsville residents, make their way onboard HMAS Canberra, where the ship was open to the public for the first time. (photo: LSIS Helen Frank)
Townsville residents, make their way onboard HMAS Canberra, where the ship was open to the public for the first time.

It was apparent by the numbers of locals that lined the breakwater, from six o’clock in the morning, that the arrival of HMAS Canberra had been eagerly anticipated the far north Queensland locals.

On 29 March the Royal Australian Navy’s Landing Helicopter Dock visited Townsville for the first time. This was the first port visit outside her homeport of Sydney since her commissioning.

Canberra is in far north Queensland conducting first of class flight trials at sea in a tropical environment. The Navy's Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit is onboard Canberra conducting the trials with one S70B-2 Seahawk helicopter from 816 Squadron and two MRH 90 helicopters from 808 Squadron, along with their flight teams, to support the trials. These trials are critical to the safe operation of helicopters onboard and must be achieved prior to the ship being deemed ready for operations.

Townsville residents photograph each other in a MRH-90 Taipan helicopter onboard HMAS Canberra, where the ship was open to the public, for the first time.

Townsville residents photograph each other in a MRH-90 Taipan helicopter onboard HMAS Canberra, where the ship was open to the public, for the first time.

The ship was busy while alongside continuously conducting orientation tours with Army personnel from the 3rd Brigade, in particular members of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, to develop the Australian Defence Force's amphibious capability. Defence Force Recruiting took the opportunity to also visit the ship along with Naval Cadets from Training Ship Townsville.

The ship hosted an open day which exceeded all expectations of the level of interest by the Townsville community. Over 15,000 people turned up at the Port of Townsville to tour the ship. While the Port Authority and the 3rd Brigade had everything from static weapons displays to bouncing castles it was the ship that the locals queued up in the tropical sun to see.

The Commanding Officer, Captain Jonathan Sadleir said his crew were touched to see such a crowd.

"This was one of the biggest activities undertaken by the ship to date and to see this number of people interested, we were honoured,” he said.

The Chairman of the Port of Townsville, Mr Patrick Brady said that the turnout was unexpected but would prepare them for future visits.

"We have had open days before but this is three times the level of interest than on previous occasions and with these numbers we really appreciate the patience and understanding of the community," he said.

The ship is scheduled to complete the current trials in May and will then complete testing across all her capabilities to achieve unit readiness later this year.

More images available on the Navy Image Gallery http://images.navy.gov.au/S20150758