For the first time in over 20 years, Navy personnel used the School of Air Traffic Control (SATC) at RAAF Base East Sale for training purposes.
Five of NUSHIP Canberra’s Air Department personnel visited the SATC to use the tower simulator to validate and practise the tower procedures that will be used onboard the Landing Helicopter Dock.
Canberra can carry up to a total of 18 helicopters onboard and operate up to six helicopters on the flight deck at any one time. On the port side of Canberra’s superstructure there is a 180 degree flying control position which overlooks the flight deck.
This position - arguably the best view on the ship - is where Canberra’s Navy Flying Controllers (FLYCOs) will co-ordinate and control aviation operations on the flight deck and within the Ship Control Zone (SCZ), while the RAAF Joint Battlefield Airspace Controllers (JBACs - formerly known as Air Traffic Controllers) will be located in a separate compartment behind the tower without windows.
Canberra’s Senior Air Traffic Control Officer (SATCO), Squadron Leader Mark Rowe, said that the time spent at the SATC was a very worthwhile experience for the team.
“We used their 360 degree tower simulator which enabled us to step through and trial our launch and recovery procedures, workflows and circuit operations in a safe environment,” said Squadron Leader Rowe.
“This activity helped to develop RAN FLYCO and RAAF JBAC skills specific to LHD aviation operations,” he said.
Canberra’s JBACs, Flight Lieutenants Aaron Betts and Tim Clark, played the role of pilots as well as ‘approach’ controllers, utilising radar to safely recover aircraft to the airfield when the weather was poor and visibility made it difficult for the pilot to identify the airfield. Canberra’s FLYCOs, Lieutenant Commander Paul Hannigan (F) and Lieutenant Matt Schroder (F2) took turns operating as FLYCO.
Squadron Leader Mark Rowe was the Tower controller subject matter expert providing advice and coaching.
The team trialled different flight tracking and recording tools, and discussed different tower control techniques as well as the different perspective compared to a helicopter cockpit.
Canberra’s Deputy Lieutenant Commander Flying (F2), Lieutenant Matt Schroder said the training was beneficial.
“The best thing about the training was running through our procedures and experiencing the work flow as it would play out in a real situation. Having a simulated environment where aircraft were approaching, recovering and launching in real time scenarios was great.” said Lieutenant Schroder.
“It was also good to practice the handover of aircraft and interaction between the FLYCOs and the JBACs,” he said.
Squadron Leader Rowe said that it has been a long time since Navy personnel had trained at the SATC.
“This has been the first time that there have been Navy students learning at SATC since 1991, when the last Navy Air Traffic Controller trainee attended the school,” said Squadron Leader Rowe.
“We thank the SATC for access to their tower simulator and look forward to putting into practice what we learnt when operating from Canberra’s tower next year,” he said.