Keeping the Seahawk aloft

Published on CPL Mark Doran (author and photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, S-70B-2 Seahawk, HMAS Melbourne (F05)

Royal Australian Navy sailor Petty Officer Aviation Technician Avionics Aaron Little prepares to test the  S-70B-2 Sea Hawk sensors while aboard HMAS Melbourne. HMAS Melbourne is patrolling in the Middle East region as part of Operation Manitou. (photo: Corporal Mark Doran)
Royal Australian Navy sailor Petty Officer Aviation Technician Avionics Aaron Little prepares to test the S-70B-2 Sea Hawk sensors while aboard HMAS Melbourne. HMAS Melbourne is patrolling in the Middle East region as part of Operation Manitou.

A quarter of a century into his career, an Australian sailor still gets a high from keeping a multi-million dollar bird aloft.
Petty Officer Aviation Technician Avionics Aaron Little is a maintenance manager for the S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter onboard HMAS Melbourne.

Operation MANITOU is Australia's contribution to the multinational Combined Maritime Forces and Melbourne is currently patrolling the waters of the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf to intercept vessels smuggling illegal narcotics used to help fund international terrorism.

With a Navy career spanning just over 25 years, Petty Officer Little said he started his training with electronic systems before he decided to work in the avionics trade.

"My primary role is to manage the maintenance and trouble-shooting of the helicopter's avionics including the power, communications, sensors, counter-measures and weapons systems," he said.

"My secondary duty is as a quality manager.

"With two able seamen and a leading seaman in the avionics team we ensure the aircraft's airworthiness is maintained.

"We are a small team with a high level of responsibility.
Petty Officer Little said Melbourne's recent port visit in the Middle East was a highlight of the deployment.

"It was a real eye-opener to see the desolate landscape, meet the local people and soak in a bit of their culture," he said.

"I always thought the desert was just flat, barren plains and sand dunes, but there are mountains as well.

"Some of the crew and I climbed a mountain to find a village sustaining itself and growing produce for the markets with water tapped from springs.

"It looked ancient and it was a privilege to see how the villagers lived."

Petty Officer Little said teamwork and camaraderie were of paramount importance for the aviation technicians aboard Melbourne.

"Obviously everyone can have a rough day, but we need to be able to shrug-off a mood and stand by our crew mates if they are feeling low," he said.

"It is always best to be straight with each other when someone is doing something annoying onboard.

"Otherwise the team or even the ship's morale can take a big hit."

Petty Officer Little said he missed his partner Jackie and their children Jarrod, Joshua, Charlotte, Lucy, Hanna and his step-grandson Darcy while on deployment.

"We stay in contact by phone or internet as much as we can," he said.

"I am always happy for their support and look forward to going home at the end of the tour.

"Melbourne recent drug intercept has already made a monumental impact on the amount of heroin that will hit our streets and has help cut funds for terrorists.

"What we are doing in the Middle East is important and we are making a difference."