Three instructors (two pilots and one aircrew) have spent the last two months at Airbus Helicopters Deutschland, in Germany, training on the Australian Defence Force’s newest aircraft, the EC-135.
The EC-135 will replace the AS350BA (Squirrel) and Bell 206 (Kiowa) currently used by Navy and Army respectively and are part of the JP9000 Phase 7 project which will deliver the new Helicopter Aircrew Training System for the Australian Defence Force.
HMAS Albatross, in Nowra, New South Wales, will be home to the new training system, which will include an array of aircraft, simulator and classroom training technologies.
The aircrew is the initial cadre of instructors and was in Germany to gain the necessary flying knowledge and skills to provide input into the Boeing Defence Australia’s syllabus design efforts and subsequent verification and validation activities.
The initial phase of training, conducted in Donauwörth, involved ground school theory of all major aircraft systems, something Navy pilot Lieutenant Commander Tony Hammond found rewarding.
“I was impressed by the experience and commitment to excellence displayed by the Airbus instructors,” Lieutenant Commander Hammond said.
“The knowledge gained during this phase provided an excellent foundation for the flying training phase.”
A highlight for the aircrew was the tour of the Airbus factory production line. Employing 7000 employees, it is the site where the Australian Defence Force’s future EC-135s are being manufactured.
“Both the facilities and skill of Airbus Helicopters Deutschland tradesmen were impressive, with the EC-135 joining other Airbus helicopters in the Australian Defence Force inventory: the MRH-90 and ARH Tiger,” Lieutenant Commander Hammond said.
Flying training was held at Manching Airfield near Ingolstadt.
Pilot, Major Anton Leshinkas, said the flying phase provided visual, instrument and maintenance test qualifications for pilots and utility training for aircrew.
“Activities typically involve 8-10 hour days of instruction and flying training with regular theory and practical assessments,” Major Leshinkas said.
“Training is professionally delivered with what might be said to be German precision and efficiency.
“The EC-135 is well configured for its training role.
“It provides a good balance of a proven airframe design, coupled with some more sophisticated cockpit systems which should prepare students well for conversion onto operational aircraft.
“The learning curve should now be better distributed across the training continuum compared to that experienced with current legacy platforms.”
Lieutenant Dave Oxley said he was impressed by the versatility of the EC-135.
“When complemented by the other training elements being provided, I am confident that the Helicopter Aircrew Training System will be a quantum leap from the current training capabilities, and I am looking forward to starting training operations in Australia,” Lieutenant Oxley said.
The first EC-135 will arrive in Australia early next year, with the remaining 14 aircraft to be delivered in quick succession.
Flying operations to support courseware development, verification and follow-on instructor training are expected to start late 2016 with the first ab-initio courses starting in early 2018.