Sound of rotors is music to his ears

This article has photo gallery Published on POIS Yuri Ramsey (author), POIS Yuri Ramsey (photographer)

Location(s): Hobart, Tasmania

Petty Officer Aviation Support Paul Parnell on the flight deck of HMAS Canberra. (photo: POIS Yuri Ramsey)
Petty Officer Aviation Support Paul Parnell on the flight deck of HMAS Canberra.

A former musician supervising the flight deck of the largest ship ever built for the Royal Australian Navy may seem like a strange mix, but for Petty Officer Aviation Support Paul Parnell it’s a natural fit and all in a day’s work.

Petty Officer Parnell is currently a flight deck supervisor onboard HMAS Canberra where he oversees aircraft movements, emergency response, and flight operations to and from the deck.

This is actually his second time serving in the Navy. He previously joined in 1988 and then left after 10 years, upon which he worked on a cruise ship for a year before returning to Hobart in 1999.

“When I got back to Hobart I took up music teaching and also played with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and many other Tasmanian ensembles,” he said.

“I then obtained a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations at the University of Tasmania in 2008 which was an amazing experience.”

However he could not resist the call of the sea and re-joined the Navy in 2009.

“I was initially a member of the Navy band when I re-joined in ‘09 and I was looking for a new career, a new direction, and aviation support came up.”
While the job may seem completely different and unrelated to the skills of a musician, Petty Officer Parnell insists it’s quite similar.

“Both roles are about teams of people all working together very precisely to achieve an aim,” he said.

“I’m conducting everybody out there and keeping everyone in tune which is very important in such a safety-critical environment.

“The flight deck is over 200 meters long and I’m responsible for keeping everyone on it safe.

“It’s well known that the flight decks of ships are some of the most dangerous places to work in the world so that makes the job very challenging.

Canberra’s flight deck is a very dynamic environment with a lot of people doing different tasks in a lot of different areas so I need to be aware of many things at once."

Commissioned in November 2014, Canberra is capable of providing the Australian Defence Force with one of the most sophisticated air-land-sea amphibious deployment systems in the world. The ship is capable of complex amphibious operations including non-combatant evacuations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.