Bravo retirement a family affair

Published on LSIS Jayson Tufrey (author and photographer)

Topic(s): S-70B-2 Seahawk, 816 Squadron

The Craig family, from left, Captain Shane, RAN, Lieutenant Tom, Chief Petty Officer Aircraft Technician Airframes Jamie and Lieutenant Tim in front of an S-70B-2 Seahawk after HMAS Albatross divisions parade for the retirement of the Seahawk and AS-350B Squirrel helicopters. (photo: LSIS Jayson Tufrey)
The Craig family, from left, Captain Shane, RAN, Lieutenant Tom, Chief Petty Officer Aircraft Technician Airframes Jamie and Lieutenant Tim in front of an S-70B-2 Seahawk after HMAS Albatross divisions parade for the retirement of the Seahawk and AS-350B Squirrel helicopters.

The retirement of the S-70B-2, colloquially known as the Bravo, on 1 December was an emotional day for at least four men, over two generations, of the Craig family.

Naval Adviser London, Captain Shane Craig and his two sons Lieutenants Tim and Tom Craig are all Aviation Warfare Officers, and Shane’s brother Chief Petty Officer Jamie Craig is an aircraft technician – all four of whom have served on Bravos.

Captain Craig said he joined the Navy in 1982 as an apprentice airframes/engines technician.

“I worked on Iroquois, Bell 206 and Squirrel. Then I received my commission in 1990 and started flying training,” he said.

“There is definitely a lot of emotion for me today. As a young midshipman, I was one of the first to go to the Seahawk Introduction and Transition Unit to fly the Bravos straight off flying training.

“I have effectively been involved with Bravos from the rank of midshipman right through to being Commanding Officer of 816 Squadron, and the Deputy Commander of the Fleet Air Arm last year, so it’s been a pretty big part of my life.”

Lieutenant Tim Craig joined the Navy in 2007, inspired by his father’s service. He fell in love with the lifestyle and the job and remembers a posting to the United Kingdom where his father was on exchange duties with the Royal Navy.

“My older brother Tom joined up six months before me, also as an Aviation Warfare Officer,” he said.

“We have essentially had the same career just six months apart. We both eventually ended up on Bravos and in fact we sailed past each other in different directions in the Indian Ocean when we conducted an operational handover in the Middle East region in 2013.

“It makes me feel a bit old to see two aircraft I have flown parked up as museum pieces; one at the Fleet Air Arm Museum and the other as one of the gate guards here at HMAS Albatross. Next week there will be another at the War Memorial in Canberra.”

At one stage Tim, Tom and Shane were all posted to the same squadron, which is almost unheard of.

Tim said it took a lot of paperwork and approvals required for this to occur.

“It had to be signed off at the highest level and we had certain administrative procedures in place. Our formal Commanding Officer was the Chief of Staff at the headquarters of the Fleet Air Arm, and Dad wasn’t allowed to instruct us. We weren’t allowed to fly together either, but it was still pretty cool,” he said.

Captain Shane Craig said the Bravo retirement represented a closing of a chapter in his life.

“It’s a bit sad to think I am never going to fly in a Bravo again when I spent so many hours strapped to that seat, flying a magnificent aircraft maintained and operated by men and women I admire and respect immensely. I have had so much personal satisfaction and enjoyment out of flying it – but life moves on,” he said.

“One of my fondest memories is delivering the match day ball at the AFL grand Final in 2004. Operational deployments have also been fantastic and they are certainly something of which I am proud – that is where the Bravos certainly got to serve the Navy best.

“Memories are great but mostly it is the people I have met along the way. So many fantastic maintainers who have kept the aircraft flying, well trained aircrew who have flown it safely and amazing support staff without whom none of this would have been possible. It really has been a whole of Navy effort that ensured the Bravo performed so well over the years and provided an outstanding contribution to Navy. All that said, it is the friendships made along the way which will last a lifetime.”