Fitting end for both aircraft and pilot

This article has photo gallery Published on LSIS Jason Tuffrey (author and photographer)

Topic(s): AS350BA Squirrel

Royal Australian Navy pilot Lieutenant Commander Tony Reyne, 65, sits in the pilot seat of an AS-350B Squirrel helicopter on the day of his last flight after 47 years’ service at HMAS Albatross, NSW. (photo: LSIS Jayson Tufrey)
Royal Australian Navy pilot Lieutenant Commander Tony Reyne, 65, sits in the pilot seat of an AS-350B Squirrel helicopter on the day of his last flight after 47 years’ service at HMAS Albatross, NSW.

After nearly 48 years flying Royal Australian Navy helicopters, Pilot Lieutenant Commander Tony Reyne has safely completed his final flight.

On 4 December, just days after the official retirement of the Squirrel, and the S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter during a divisions parade at HMAS Albatross, Lieutenant Commander Reyne piloted one four Squirrels destined for perpetuity as museum displays. 

Lieutenant Commander Reyne said his last ever flight was to deliver Squirrel 819 to the Army Museum at Oakey.

“It will be a little sad, and the end of an era, but all good things must come to an end, “ he said. 

“I’ve been privileged and blessed to have flown this aircraft for so long – it is time to move on to something else.”

After posting to 723 Squadron in 1978 Lieutenant Commander Reyne spent more than 30 years working in the same squadron.

He logged more than 10,000 flying hours, 5,329 of which were spent at the controls of a Squirrel. He achieved more than 1,200 deck landings with 350 being conducted at night.

Lieutenant Commander Reyne said he had many memorable experiences during his career. 

“Being embarked on HMAS Anzac during Operation WARDEN and Operation STABILISE in East Timor, for one of the Squirrel’s three battle honours was a great experience,” he said.

“In November 1999 we found the bodies of four lost snow boarders in the Kosciusko National Park which brought to an end 102 days of searching. While obviously not a nice task it was good to be able to bring closure to their families. 

“Operating Wessex aircraft around the oil rigs in Bass Strait as part of Operation BURSA was also an interesting and challenging time,” he said.

Lieutenant Commander Reyne said instructing was another rewarding part of his career.

“Seeing students develop from raw to competent is satisfying – it’s satisfying to see them years later and know I had a part in what they have become,” he said.

“Engine-off landings are fun. You bring the engine to idle and the aircraft essentially glides to the ground. You only have one shot to get it right - letting a student do that is interesting but also good fun. 

“It’s overwhelming to think I have essentially had something to do with the training of virtually every pilot who has come through 723 Squadron since 1988.

“I couldn’t even put a quantitative figure on how many but it’s a lot, pretty much most of the current Fleet Air Arm,” he said.

Lieutenant Commander Reyne said he was going to miss flying but it was time to move on.

“I am surprised that at the age of 65 I am still doing the job of somebody in their twenties with no restrictions and I think, I’m still doing it well – at least that is the feedback I am getting. 

“It’s now time to hand over the baton and spend time with my family. I plan on doing a bit of travelling and spending time with my seven grandchildren,” he said.