On November 26, the first two Navy aircraft landed aboard what was then NUSHIP Canberra, alongside Fleet Base East, Sydney in the build up to the ship’s commissioning.
The aircraft flew from HMAS Albatross, Nowra, to begin deck handling trials on the Navy’s new Helicopter Landing Dock (LHD). These trials are the first phase of the First of Class Flight Trials which will take place over a number of months and provide the LHD with the operational clearances to launch and recover and secure helicopters by day and night.
Aviation Support sailor Able Seaman James Sullivan was one of the Aircraft Rescue Fire suitman on the day and witnessed the landing first hand.
“It was a really exciting experience seeing the first ever land on of an aircraft onboard an LHD,” Able Seaman Sullivan said.
“To be a part of such a significant milestone for the Royal Australian Navy was a real honour.”
Canberra embarked an MRH-90 from 808 Squadron and an S-70B-2 Seahawk from 816 Squadron. Flight Deck Officer, Lieutenant Paul Coxell noted the importance of the day.
“These first landings where a significant event for both the Air Department and the ship as a whole. It is the first time in over 30 years that the Navy has had such a platform that enables air operations on a grand scale, with six landing spots and a hangar with workshops able to accommodate up to eight aircraft,” Lieutenant Coxell said.
“While the Air Department is at the forefront to ensure the landings are successful, it should be highlighted that this was a whole ship effort with many of the officers and sailors working behind the scenes to ensure the ship was in readiness to accept the aircraft,” he said.
The embarkation of the aircraft and personnel marks the start of the Naval Operational Test and Evaluation program and is also the first embarkation of external personnel enabling the ship to test its hotel services plan with the execution of reception and induction briefings and allocation of accommodation and information technology services.
Not only was this the first landing of an aircraft on the ship, but for many of the Air Department it was their first time at sea and also the first time since the completion of their training that they have experienced landing an aircraft on a ship of Canberra’s scale.
“It was an exciting moment and an event that will be written into the history books for the entire Air Department,” said Lieutenant Coxell.
Although a significant step forward this is also just the start for Canberra’s Air Department with the focus now swiftly moving into Deck Handling Trials and First of Class Flight Trials.
"The more complex task of certification will now begin,” Lieutenant Coxell said.
The next stage for members of the Air Department is to work in conjunction with the Aviation Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit for the certification of deck handling procedures with the focus on the Aviation Support sailors and their ability to strike and range a variety of aircraft types to and from HMAS Canberra’s flight deck.
Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20143695.