RAAF Air Traffic Controllers expand horizons in HMAS Adelaide

This article has photo gallery Published on FLTLT Stephanie Anderson (author), ABIS Craig Walton (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Adelaide (L01), Exercise RIMPAC

Royal Australian Air Force Air Traffic Controllers, Squadron Leader Daniel Lee and Flight Lieutenant Jen Slater, on HMAS Adelaide's flight deck during Exercise RIMPAC 18. (photo: ABIS Craig Walton)
Royal Australian Air Force Air Traffic Controllers, Squadron Leader Daniel Lee and Flight Lieutenant Jen Slater, on HMAS Adelaide's flight deck during Exercise RIMPAC 18.

Two Air Traffic Control Officers posted to HMAS Adelaide are taking advantage of an opportunity rarely afforded Air Force personnel.

SQNLDR Daniel Lee is the Senior Air Traffic Control Officer, and FLTLT Jennifer Slater is the Air Traffic Control Officer (ATCO) onboard HMAS Adelaide, both posting to the ship in January 2018.

Air Force supports HMA Ships Adelaide and Canberra LHDs with ATCOs on two year postings.

ATCOs who work in the LHDs have a keen interest in amphibious operations, working in a joint and coalition team, and travelling around the world.

FLTLT Slater said day to day life at sea has its own challenges, but comes with personal and professional growth.

“It is a pretty amazing environment, everything is within 230 metres and 11 decks and every day is different both in location and evolutions being conducted,” she said

“The personal challenges of being away from your family can take their toll, but the ship has a strong and supportive team, and the cohesion of the shared experience makes for a strong sea family.”

Since obtaining her Harbour Watchkeeping Certificate, FLTLT Slater carries out duties looking after Adelaide alongside on behalf of the Commanding Officer.

“Attaining my Harbour Watchkeeping Certificate was definitely challenging and something unusual for an Air Force ATCO. You need to display an understanding of damage control systems throughout the ship and be able to take control in the event of a real incident alongside” she said

Air Traffic Controllers provide a maritime control service to aircraft embarked in Adelaide or working with Adelaide as part of a task group, including traffic and navigational information, and precise direction of aircraft in poor weather approaches.

FLTLT Slater said during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) they were coordinating with both military and civil Air Traffic Controllers, the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC), helicopters and ships of multi-national forces.

“The highlight for RIMPAC was watching our ship operate at its full capacity with helicopter operations and amphibious landing craft operations occurring concurrently.”

SQNLDR Lee said the ship was like a floating airfield.

“There are similarities with respect to core air traffic control skills and we apply our skills acquired from controlling at RAAF air bases to controlling the aircraft from our ship,” he said

“One of the key considerations is the ship’s location; it is imperative for flight safety that aircraft are aware of our ship’s position as it moves across the ocean,”

“This allows the aircrew to plan appropriately for fuel and navigation."

SQNLDR Lee said working as part of ship’s company and contributing to the nation’s amphibious capability is a tremendously rewarding experience.

“We have been afforded the opportunity to use our core skills in a unique and dynamic environment; variety is one of the great aspects of a career as an Air Force Air Traffic Control Officer.”