Graduation for new birdies

This article has photo gallery Published on LS Aircrewman Adam Wade (author), Mr Chris Kershaw (photographer)

Location(s): RAAF Base Pearce, WA

L-R: Commodore Brett Dowsing, Sub Lieutenant Sean Jeal, Midshipman Mitchell Biffin, Lieutenant Commander Ryan José, Sub Lieutenant Max Whiticker, Sub Lieutenant Rhiannon Thompson, and Commodore Chris Smallhorn. (photo: Chris Kershaw)
L-R: Commodore Brett Dowsing, Sub Lieutenant Sean Jeal, Midshipman Mitchell Biffin, Lieutenant Commander Ryan José, Sub Lieutenant Max Whiticker, Sub Lieutenant Rhiannon Thompson, and Commodore Chris Smallhorn.
Navy’s newest pilots were awarded their ‘wings’ recently during a graduation parade at No. 2 Flying Training School, RAAF Base Pearce, Western Australia.
 
Sub Lieutenants Sean Jeal, Rhiannon Thompson, Max Whiticker and Midshipman Mitchell Biffin successfully completed 251 Advanced Pilots Course alongside their RAAF course mates.
 
Commander Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Chris Smallhorn presided as reviewing officer of the parade and was on hand to present the new pilots with their ‘wings’.
 
It was a great day for Sub Lieutenant Max Whiticker.
 
“Hearing my parents and sister yell out to me when my name was called to receive my wings from the reviewing officer - that was a very satisfying moment,” he said.
 
A number of awards were also presented during the ceremony. Sub Lieutenant Whiticker was presented with the Leadership and Most Improved award while Sub Lieutenant Rhiannon Thompson received the Aerobatic Skill trophy.
 
“To beat all the guys and say I can fly some pretty sweet aerobatics is very cool!” Sub Lieutenant Thompson said.
 

A formation of PC-9 aircraft conduct a fly past of the graduation parade.

A formation of PC-9 aircraft conduct a fly past of the graduation parade.

 
Proud family and friends travelled from all over Australia to attend the graduation and were treated to a number of spectacles including several fly-pasts from PC-9 and Hawk training aircraft as well as the ‘Thunderbird’. The Thunderbird formation consisted of 18 planes flying over the city of Perth.
 
The new pilots’ graduation was the culmination of 18 months of intensive flying training which commenced at the Basic Flying Training School in Tamworth, New South Wales operating CT-4 training aircraft. The students then progressed to the PC-9 turboprop aircraft while training at RAAF Base Pearce.
 
Sub Lieutenant Sean Jeal said it was a valuable and productive course.
 
“It was great to go to work every day and learn new skills while improving on old ones,” he said.
 
The pilots will play a vital role in Navy’s fleet, flying MH-60R Seahawk maritime combat helicopters to master warfare operations against adversaries above and below the surface, as well as operating MRH-90 maritime support helicopters, transporting stores and passengers around the fleet at sea.
 
The new pilots will move on to their next phase of training, learning to fly the EC-135 helicopter at the Joint Helicopter School located at HMAS Albatross, Nowra, New South Wales.