Seahawks to take flight in nation’s capital

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author), CPOIS Cameron Martin (photographer)

Location(s): Canberra, ACT

Topic(s): MH-60R Seahawk, 816 Squadron, Skyfire

Petty Officer Aircrewman Blake Woolard who will be the winchman for the winching demonstration at Canberra Skyfire 2020, conducting a winch test on an MH60 Romeo helicopter at 816 Squadron, HMAS Albatross. (photo: CPOIS Cameron Martin)
Petty Officer Aircrewman Blake Woolard who will be the winchman for the winching demonstration at Canberra Skyfire 2020, conducting a winch test on an MH60 Romeo helicopter at 816 Squadron, HMAS Albatross.

Over 100,000 people are expected to gather on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin on Saturday 14 March to enjoy the magnificent display that is Skyfire, a celebration of the Canberra region, people and community.

The skies above the lake will be filled with firework and aerial displays and a highlight of the program will be the winching display from 816 Squadron.

The Squadron operates the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and Skyfire presents a great opportunity for audiences to see the Royal Australian Navy’s next generation submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter in action as it demonstrates a range of manoeuvres.

816 Operations Officer Lieutenant Commander Marcelo Lagos will have the challenging role of coordinating the many moving parts of this activity.

“While winching is not the Romeo’s primary role, the aircraft is able to conduct winching and rescue operations.

“Navy’s Fleet Air Arm is regularly called on to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief in response to bushfires, floods, cyclones or other emergencies,” Lieutenant Commander Lagos said. 

816 Squadron recently participated in Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20 where the MH-60R Seahawk helicopters provided Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) through its sophisticated cameras and other sensors.

“Each night, soon after dusk, the aircrew from 816 Squadron were joined by Rural Fire Service specialists for flights over fire grounds to assess and map current fire movements,” Lieutenant Commander Lagos said.

“Skyfire is a great opportunity to demonstrate the skills of the aircrew and strengths of the aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm and I hope the Skyfire audience enjoys the demonstration and they leave with an appreciation of the MH-60R and its capabilities.” 

Lieutenant Commander Eugene Cleary, Skyfire co-pilot, says he’s looking forward to the event and seeing a lot of smiles on a lot of faces.

“Navy helicopters are always popular attractions and we always look forward to showing off exactly what the Seahawk can do - which is a lot. 

“There’s a lot of work behind the scenes from many people including our Operations staff and maintainers, but it’s all worth it if we get kids thinking “That’s what I want to do when I grow up!”

Petty Officer Aircrewman Blake Woolard first participated in Skyfire in 2006 as part of the Australian Federation Guard.

This year he has a very different role as Aircrewman.

Petty Officer Woolard will be the ‘back seater’ conducting the winching, ensuring the aircraft is where the crew want it to be when it needs to be there and keeping the wireman safe and dry.

Petty Officer Woolard also hopes the display sparks a few ambitions.

“I hope to bring enjoyment to the crowd and if I can motivate even one person to chase a dream to become an Aircrewman, or to join the Defence then I’ll be happy,” Petty Officer Woolard said. 

The Royal Australian Air Force’s Roulettes will also thrill audiences with an aerobatic display over Lake Burley Griffin and the Australian Federation Guard will conduct a Precision Drill Team display supported by the Howitzer 105 mm M2A2 Ceremonial Guns.

For more information on Skyfire and ADF’s contribution go to https://www.hit.com.au/story/skyfire-2020-148460.