On Wednesday 31 July, a helicopter crew from 816 Squadron was able to play ‘Good Samaritan’ by providing in-flight assistance to a light aircraft that had reported an unsafe gear indication over Merimbula, on the NSW South Coast.
The pilot of the Canberra-based Piper aircraft, which had two passengers on board, had radioed to Merimbula airport that he may have a problem with his undercarriage.
Fortunately, a Navy S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter was transiting though the area on a navigation exercise at the time, and its crew comprising Lieutenant Ben Lancaster (aircraft captain) Lieutenant Ian Parrott (TACCO) and Leading Seaman Aircrewman James Inglish (SENSO) heard the message and volunteered their services. The Seahawk flew beside the aircraft and the crew conducted an air to air visual inspection.
“We were able to assess the aircraft visually and with our FLIR thermal imaging technology and advised the pilot that his landing gear appeared to be down and locked. At the time, the pilot had no indications whatsoever of the landing gear's position,” Lieutenant Parrott said.
The plane landed safely at about 3:15pm and by 3:45pm it was in the air again, on a return trip to Canberra, after an inspection and minor adjustment by Merimbula Aircraft Maintenance.
The Seahawk and crew then continued to on their way to Albury as planned.
“We were just happy to have been in the right place at the right time and able to assist,” said Lieutenant Parrott, adding that the response was a well coordinated crew effort which involved forming on the Piper, communicating with the pilot and conducting the necessary visual and FLIR inspections.