Thursday night, 10 April 2014, was another beautiful night on the deck of HMAS Choules when “Hands to Flying Stations” was called.
Contently walking towards the Helicopter Control Console, the Ship’s Aviation Officer (SAVO) Lieutenant Commander John Sime, set up for yet another night of flying.
This time, Choules was off the coast of Townsville for Exercise SEA DAWN with the Australian Army’s Five Aviation Regiment (5AVN REG) MRH-90 helicopters conducting their final work up flying serials with the ship.
The flight turned out to be just enough to get Lieutenant Commander John Sime over 1000 deck landings and launches in one year onboard Choules.
Lieutenant Commander Sime grew up in Carluke, Lanarkshire, Scotland a long way from Vincentia, Jervis Bay in Australia where he and his family currently reside.
As an Aviation Warfare Officer, having flown Sea Kings HAS MKV and MKVI in the Royal Navy, and Seahawk S-70B-2 and Sea King MK50 in the Royal Australian Navy, he is able to spin the best aviation stories known as ‘warries’ to the ship’s company (and anyone else who’ll listen).
Lieutenant Commander Sime can also spend an evening telling his Flight Deck Team just about every pilot joke under the sun. It’s obvious aviation is his life and he loves it.
Lieutenant Commander Sime can often be heard saying “just look at how beautiful it is out here,” before he lands another ‘bird’ on the deck.
“Why would you want to be anywhere else?”
Choules, an amphibious Landing Ship Dock, originally served with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary known as RFA Largs Bay from 2006-2011 and was commissioned by the Royal Australian Navy in December 2011.
Choules has several spots for aircraft to traverse and park on the deck allowing the platform to launch and recover from a single spot.
This year Choules has also achieved an impressive training record, training and upgrading eight Helicopter Control Officers and seven Flight Deck Marshallers as well as qualifying the majority of Navy and Army pilots in Deck Landing qualifications.
The recent embarkation of the Army’s 5 AVN helicopters onboard Choules was an important milestone for the MRH-90 Project acceptance into service as an integral part of the Australian Defence Force’s Amphibious Ready Element.
At the end of the day the milestone is a great achievement for Lieutenant Commander John Sime and a very proud Choules.
Lieutenant Commander Sime said in summary his time as the SAVO in Choules has been really challenging and rewarding.
“In 12 months the ship has achieved an impressive level of embarked Flying Operations ensuring full integration of both Army and Navy MRH-90 capability into the Amphibious Ready Element.
“In a short period we have conducted more embarked flying than the Fleet combined and have proved that the Landing Ship Dock is an adaptable and efficient aviation platform.”
The Amphibious Ready Element is is based around a reinforced infantry combat team (Company) and a single Landing Helicopter Dock or Landing Ship Dock. Attached components include the MRH-90 helicopters, surveillance capabilities and combat service support, combined with naval escorts and supporting joint assets.
Exercise SEA DAWN 2014 was conducted 24 March-17 April 2014 throughout the Halifax Bay and the Cowley Beach Training Areas in North Queensland. The exercise continued to hone amphibious procedures for the Australian Defence Force’s transition to a true expeditionary capability with the arrival of the 27,000 ton Canberra class Landing Helicopter Dock NUSHIP Canberra, scheduled to enter service later this year. The exercise provided ADF personnel with the chance to work closely together and develop the critical skills necessary for joint amphibious operations.