Navy helicopters and their crews are specifically trained to fly over the water, but recently a team from 816 Squadron flew across the continent and covered a lot of land rather than sea.
Returning an aircraft to the Fleet Air Arm home in Nowra from HMAS Stirling in Western Australia, the team took an overland route which presented an invaluable opportunity for both Aircrew and engineers to practice their skills.
Refuelling stops included Albany, Forrest, Ceduna, Horsham and Wagga Wagga while welcome overnight rest stops were taken in Esperance and Port Lincoln.
Lieutenant Anthony McCann was the Responsible Engineering Officer on the detachment and said that it was a great experience for all involved despite considerable challenges.
"This was a shining example of pride, professionalism and what can be achieved through collaboration," he said.
One example of the challenges a single aircraft team can face is the unavailability of spares.
Maintainers found they needed support 900km into the trip when components and additional equipment were required for unexpected running repairs. Military aircraft spares are not commonly found in the coastal town, so unfortunately the parts had to be driven from stocks near Perth. Technical sailors from their sister flight in the west delivered assistance by 10am the next morning.
The maintenance team was small, but dedicated and experienced, and the procedure proceeded clinically without incident. A mid afternoon ground run capped off a very successful in-field repair with the aircraft deemed serviceable to proceed on the next overland leg. The team then made the most of the stunning nearby beach by cooling off in the ocean.
"The distances to support were large but the small team of seven never felt alone or unsupported," Lieutenant McCann said.
Weather conditions across the vast expanse were generally fine although typically a head wind was experienced for the whole crossing making the trip again full of opportunities for training.