Navy’s first ever female helicopter pilot has conducted an aircraft school visit with a difference.
Executive Officer 808 Squadron, Lieutenant Commander Natalee Johnston joined the crew of an MRH-90 Taipan flight from HMAS Albatross to Milton Public School where her daughter was attending classes. Navy helicopters are regular visitors to schools on the NSW south coast but this particular flight marked the first time a pilot was the mother of one of the school’s students.
“This flight was special to me as not only was my daughter, Hannah, one of the students, it was also one of my final flights before handing over the reigns as Executive Officer of the Squadron,” Lieutenant Commander Johnston said.
“As well as Hannah watching the landing, my husband, Lieutenant Commander Gavin Johnston, was the ground liaison and my three year old son, Alasdair, also watched.”
The entire school assembled to witness the landing, with 500 students later given a tour of the multi-role helicopter, one of 47 operated by the Australian Defence Force.
“As the home of Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, Albatross is a visible and important part of Nowra and the Shoalhaven region,” Lieutenant Commander Johnston said.
“Visits like these allow us to support the community that supports us, giving them an insight into the work carried out by naval aviators, and perhaps inspiring some of the students to consider a future in Navy.
“This was a very successful visit, with a great morning had by all. Many of the students are still talking about the visit.”
Milton Public School’s deputy principal, Mr Jason Barby and the school’s teachers provided support for the visit, working with the team from 808 Squadron to conduct the aircraft tours.
Lieutenant Commander Johnston has the distinction of being not only the Australian Navy’s first female pilot, but also the first female aviator to return to flying after having children. She was joined by helicopter captain Lieutenant Commander Dom Cooper, Leading Seaman Aircrewman Ben Nixon and a team from 808 Squadron and Albatross to support the visit.
808 Squadron provides the maritime support helicopter capability to the Fleet.