Fleet Air Arm’s biggest little fan pitches in to fly the flag

Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author)

Location(s): Mosman, Sydney

Topic(s): 816 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm

Six-year-old Eloise Livingston with personnel from 816 Squadron on Australia Day 2019. (photo: Unknown)
Six-year-old Eloise Livingston with personnel from 816 Squadron on Australia Day 2019.

The Navy and Air Force flypasts and aircraft handling displays are a highlight for many people who mark Australia Day around Sydney Harbour.

This year’s Australia Day activities included a RAAF C-130J Hercules dispensing flares over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and two Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopters flying the Australian Flag and the White Ensign.

Displays like these allow Australian Defence Force aircrew to demonstrate their skills and capabilities to the Australian public and they’re always crowd pleasers.

While most people enjoy watching the aircraft flying in the skies above, one Mosman youngster gets her thrills from the pre-flight routine.

Every Australia Day, six-year-old Eloise Livingston and her parents head to Mosman Oval to watch the Navy helicopter crew prepare for the flag fly.

Leading Seaman Aviation Technician Aircraft Daniel Crowe, 816 Squadron’s Black Team Trade Supervisor, described Eloise as the Fleet Air Arm’s “biggest fan”.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Eloise and her parents Emma and Clyde a few years ago.

“She watched from the sidelines and after we’d wrapped up, she asked if she could have a photo with me because I am one of the “Brave People” (her term for ADF Members),” Leading Seaman Crowe said.

“How could I say no to such a big smile?” he said.

Eloise’s parents explained to Leading Seaman Crowe that their daughter had a real love for the “brave people” and that she included them in her prayers every night.

“I made sure the team knew to look out for Eloise this year and to make sure they said hello to her when they had a spare moment,” Leading Seaman Crowe said.

“The team had other ideas in mind, and went further than a hello.

“They allowed Eloise to help spread the flags out and roll them up upon completion of Ops.

“They also presented her with a Romeo keychain and gave her a White Ensign,” Leading Seaman Crowe said.

Eloise helps to roll up the flags after the flag fly.

Eloise helps to roll up the flags after the flag fly.

He said Eloise was one of just a few members of the public who knew just how much preparation work was required to conduct the flag fly.

“Prep usually starts a week out from the event, with rigging and inspections carried out on all the flags, and we do practices runs at Albatross before the big day.

“Set up begins with an early morning walk around the oval to secure any loose items that may cause damage or injury to aircraft or people.

“The flags are staked out on the oval and then it’s a process of assembling and connecting weight stacks and counter weights before the aircraft arrive on the oval and wait for approval to commence the ops over the harbour.

“Once they are cleared to fly, the aircraft will hover and members of the team position themselves on the flags. As the flag is raised the crew drop back and the last person will tug the tail of the flag, making it unfurl (hopefully) as the aircraft flies away,” Leading Seaman Crowe said.

The flag fly may look simple next to other military helicopter evolutions, but it’s a labour intensive process.

“It’s definitely worth it,” Leading Seaman Crowe said.

“It allows us to us to express our thanks and support to the wider community and it’s great that we can also make individual contact with someone like Eloise.

“This little girl had the greatest Australia Day ever because of the people we employ and the professionalism they display.

“Photos from the day don’t do justice to the smile on Eloise’s face,” he said.