After months of training with synthetic airframes, NUSHIP Canberra’s Air Department was exposed to the real thing at HMAS Albatross earlier this month.
The team conducted aviation operations training with an MRH90 helicopter on the Landing Helicopter Deck (LHD) dummy deck which simulates the ship's flight deck.
The ship’s aircraft directors marshalled the helicopter in for landing and experienced the full down wash of the main rotor blades as the aircraft hovered over the landing spot.
Canberra’s Commander Air, Commander Paul Moggach said the flight control team and Joint Battlefield Airspace Controllers also attended the training to exercise communications procedures between Flying Control (FLYCO), Air Traffic Control, the flight deck team and the aircraft.
“This training has allowed us to develop fundamental communication procedures that will allow safe and efficient aviation operations in the LHD,” CMDR Moggach said.
“We haven’t had a ship of this size and capability in the Navy for many years so coordinating the different skills sets to meet the overall command requirements of the ship is one of the challenges we face.”
“I am particularly confident the challenges are being met, the team has been working really well together.”
The MRH90 conducted launch and recovery procedures on each of the flight deck spots and also practiced a vertical replenishment evolution where an underslung load is moved from one ship to another.
The main focus of the training was to test Canberra’s newly developed standard operating procedures for multi-spot deck operations, which also included simulated communication with the bridge.
During the week of training the Air Department also received a brief on the MRH90 capabilities and a demonstration of the aircraft's manual blade fold and spread evolution. It is important for the new Aviation Support personnel to understand the aircraft that will be operating from Canberra’s deck.
The Aviation Support category (AVN) was introduced in 2012 as part of the introduction into service of the LHDs.
“It was realised that a large, multi spot air capable ship would require a significant effort in terms of managing the flight deck, particularly in terms of aircraft movement, aircraft safety and accident response, so the category was stood up to meet that requirement,” CMDR Moggach said.
Able Seaman Robert Brook, one of the 45 Air Department personnel onboard Canberra, waited for three years to change category to Aviation Support and is now thrilled to be a part of the Fleet Air Arm.
“Our job involves aircraft movements, first response to any helicopter crash rescue incident on the flight deck and general flight deck and hangar husbandry,” AB Brook said.
“I’m really looking forward to deploying with the LHD, getting out there and doing the job.”
Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20141750.