The 'Enduring' Squirrel still going strong

Published on SBLT Adam Jameson (author), Mr Jeffrey Chartier (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Albatross

AS350BA Squirrel helicopter 806 at the Naval Air Station, HMAS Albatross, Nowra. (photo: Mr Jeffrey Chartier)
AS350BA Squirrel helicopter 806 at the Naval Air Station, HMAS Albatross, Nowra.

For the venerable AS350BA ‘Squirrel’ helicopter and the men and women of 723 Squadron, 2014 proved to be a remarkable year.
 
The Squadron achieved significant flying hours undertaking aircrew training and fleet support tasking in the ‘Squirrel’. But what made their achievements all the more impressive, is the fact that the Squirrel fleet celebrated its 30th birthday with the Navy this year.
 
In total, 723 Squadron conducted over 3,500 hours of flying time on the AS350 for this calendar year, a figure that has not been matched since the early 1990s. What’s more, when accounting for the 1,330 hours logged on the squadron’s other workhorse, the Bell 429, 723 Squadron achieved the highest rate of effort in the entire Fleet Air Arm for 2014.
 
Commanding Officer Commander Alan Moore, praised the efforts of those who made the feat possible.
 
“I am extremely proud of the efforts of all personnel who have been involved with the ‘Squirrel’ over its 30 year history and the efforts they have put in, whether maintaining, flying or supporting the aircraft to achieve a most remarkable safety, operational and training record," he said.
 
The AS350BA Squirrel fleet is due to retire in 2018 with the planned introduction of the AIR 9000 Phase 7 - Helicopter Aircrew Training System into Australian Defence Force service.