When Aircrewman Warrant Officer Craig Daniel, of the Joint Helicopter School, first heard about the changes afoot in Navy aircrew training, he was immediately interested taking part.
He was so keen he wrote to his career manager to ask to be involved in the future of the aircrewman trade as part of the Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) based at HMAS Albatross.
Warrant Officer Daniel said the initial priority for himself and the Standards Aircrewman Instructor, Army Warrant Officer Class 2 Phil Laycock, was the train-the trainer phase.
“We need to test, evaluate, verify and validate the complete training management plan of Training Authority - Aviation and our presentations to ensure they meet the students’ learning objectives,” he said.
“The presentations at the school will include those in the classroom as well as synthetic training on the simulator, or live on the aircraft.
“When using the aircrewman virtual reality trainers students will be wearing virtual reality goggles to practise their winch/hoist techniques.”
Junior aircrew initially train in the EC-135 and will progress to operational conversion courses on the MH-60R Seahawk, MRH-90 Taipan, S-70-A9 Blackhawk or CH-47F Chinook at the first available opportunity.
Warrant Officer Daniel said Warrant Officer Laycock had a similar training background with his Black Hawk aircrew experience with 6 Aviation Regiment in Townsville and Sydney, as well as his time spent at the Army Helicopter School in Oakey.
“We will soon have more Navy and Army aircrewmen instructors, but we also have six Boeing aircrewman instructors on the team,” he said.
“We plan for a maximum of 14 students on our first course next year, six Navy and eight Army.
There will, however, be small differences in the training for sailors and soldiers.
“For example, sailors will learn diver drops in a wetsuit as part of the surface swimmer component and do five jumps from the EC-135 for their initial training,” he said.
“This will be a great achievement for the school as a training institution with the ability to rely on its own aircraft.
“Navy aircrewmen will do more tactical flying than previously taught, Army aircrewmen will have additional focus on confined area operations, gunnery and formation flight.”
Warrant Officer Daniel said it was fantastic to see the four different backgrounds of personnel in the joint workforce working together on the training solution.
“It’s been a massive task for the people from Boeing, Army, Navy and Thales and gratifying to see the system work,” he said.
“For many years Navy was an entity within itself, now we can expose ourselves to see how Army does aviation and vice-versa.
“There is so much experience with the staff at the school who have been able to put the complete solution together to deliver highly competent aircrewmen at the end of their training.”
Warrant Officer Daniel spent 10 years as an electronic warfare operator before becoming an aircrewman.
Warrant Officer Daniel continued his trade as an aircrewman instructor on the Seahawk simulator and also spent time on deployments to the Gulf as a sensor operator before becoming a training officer at 816 Squadron.
He then spent two-and-a-half-years in the acoustic analysis area before joining 723 Squadron awaiting his current position.
Warrant Officer Daniel said Navy and Army were looking for ambitious, career-minded personnel for the aircrewman trade.
“We want people who display the ability to learn electronic systems, then operate them and know why and how they operate,” he said.
“It’s probably the most challenging role a non-commissioned member could do, but it’s very fulfilling.”
Warrant Officer Laycock said Navy and Army had been operating on separate systems until now.
“In the long-term our procedures and terminology will become more synchronised and allow more exchange and the ability to swap aircrew between the two services,” he said.
“It’s exciting to be a part of the program and be facing the diverse range of tasks we need to do to establish the joint training solution by the end of the year.”
Warrant Officer Laycock said Australian Defence Force aircrewmen needed to be able to make decisions quickly.
“We are often facing complex and changing environments where what needs to be done may require a quick risk assessment and decision-making process,” he said.
“The aircraft can operate in close proximity to obstacles, which means aircrewmen need to judge what is appearing before them and make their decisions in a timely manner.”