Daring to fly

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author), POIS Kelvin Hockey (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Albatross, NSW

Topic(s): HMAS Albatross, MRH-90 Taipan, 725 Squadron, Work Experience Program

Senior Helicopter Pilot Instructor, Lieutenant Commander Michael Robertson of 723 Squadron, explains the theory and practical application of the Airbus EC-135T2's enclosed tail rotor to Women in Aviation Work Experience Camp participants. (photo: POIS Kelvin Hockey)
Senior Helicopter Pilot Instructor, Lieutenant Commander Michael Robertson of 723 Squadron, explains the theory and practical application of the Airbus EC-135T2's enclosed tail rotor to Women in Aviation Work Experience Camp participants.

HMAS Albatross, the Defence Work Experience Program and the Fleet Air Arm recently joined forces to present the inaugural Women in Naval Aviation camp.

Sixteen young women from across Australia converged on the Nowra base for the three-day camp which introduced them to the career opportunities available to them in the Fleet Air Arm and life in the Royal Australian Navy.

The hands-on program included an exciting range of activities such as weapon and parade training, winching and sea survival skills, leadership, teamwork and physical training and work placement at 725 Squadron, home of the MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ naval combat helicopter.

Many of the participants said that they most enjoyed meeting women already working in the Defence Force.

Jaskiran Kaur, a Year 11 student from Hurlstone Agricultural High School in Sydney is deliberating between pursuing a career as a pilot or Intelligence Officer and said the camp had definitely helped her narrow down her choices.

“It was really useful for me to interact with the pilots, to learn about their careers and just get a feel for how people of my age and background fit into the Australian Defence Force,” she said.

One of the pilots the girls spent time with was Lieutenant Kate Munari of 808 Squadron, who flies the Navy’s multi-role helicopter.

“I hosted the girls when they came to visit and gave them a brief of the capabilities of the MRH-90 helicopter and the role of 808 Squadron, including talking about the involvement in an humanitarian response in Vanuatu.

“I then took them down to the hangar and showed them around the aircraft and they sat in it and asked all sorts of questions about it.

“I was really impressed by the range of questions and their level of enthusiasm,” Lieutenant Munari said.

Lieutenant Munari also participated in a pilot ‘Q&A’ session. Scheduled for 30 minutes the session lasted for almost two hours.

“It was an opportunity for the girls to ask any of the questions they had, and they had quite a few,” Lieutenant Munari said.

Questions ranged from personal experiences in the military, to recruiting questions, to pilot course and life in the Navy.

“I think the camp is a great initiative and I hope they got a more in-depth understanding of what it is to be a pilot or Aviation Warfare Officer and some of the other careers in the Navy,” Lieutenant Munari said.

“Also I hope they got to see that aircrew are just normal people with high levels of motivation and their dream of becoming a pilot is achievable, and they have a much better understanding of what life in the Fleet Air Arm is all about so they can make well-informed career choices.

Lieutenant Munari said it was an enjoyable part of her own job to share her experiences with budding aviators.

“I also like to help people achieve their goals and hope that sharing my experiences and tips it has helped them - I enjoy sharing the ‘real’ side of Navy aviation,” she said.

“I would have loved to have done something similar to this camp at their age.

“The access these girls got to the base, and the aviation community will give them so much more information to enable them to make a very educated decision regarding joining the military in Navy Aviation.

“And it will give them an extra bit of motivation during the long recruitment and training courses.”

Camp Mentors Lieutenant Commander Joanne Mackintosh, Leading Seaman Aviation Technician Avionics Christie Thomson and Able Seaman Aviation Technician Avionics Alanah Whitburn were on hand throughout to guide and assist the participants through the intensive program which started with a 5:45am fitness session and ended with lights out at 10pm.

Officer in Charge, Leading Seaman Physical Training Instructor Jan Gilmour said that while the camp had definitely met its goal of providing the young women with exposure to career options and the leadership and teamwork required for a career in aviation there were other outcomes that couldn’t be measured or predicted.

“I loved seeing the transformation. For many of the young women there was definitely a moment when it all clicked and came together, a moment when they thought 'I can do this job' particularly when they were inspired by the female mentors,” she said.

Georgie de Cure, Program Support Officer with the Defence Work Experience Program said that when developing the program the primary goal of the Women in Naval Aviation Camp was to increase female participation rates in naval aviation and they were definitely on track.

“The camp was an absolute success, they were a wonderful group of girls and were engaged in the program right from the start,” Miss de Cure said.

“It was awesome to see them come in with an interest in getting into the aviation and leave with a clear idea of how to achieve these goals and where they might find themselves in the future.

“It was also great to see the girls exposed to a wider range of job options within Navy Aviation to enable them to find something that they believe will be the best fit for them.

“The girls enjoyed the hands-on activities, getting their hands dirty and experiencing exactly what they might be doing in their future careers in Navy was a great opportunity for them.

“The interactions with the currently serving female Navy personnel were one of the most valuable aspects for the girls, seeing women who are in positions that they hope to see themselves in in the future, the people who have done it before and hearing about their great careers in the Navy was just invaluable.”