A major step towards delivering a comprehensive helicopter training system for the Australian Defence Force occurred on 12 September with the commencement of a $157 million construction project at HMAS Albatross and Jervis Bay Airfield.
A sod-turning ceremony was held to mark the start of the project, which is the culmination of two years of planning by the Department of Defence to build facilities to support helicopter training for both the Royal Australian Navy and Australian Army.
The project is in support of the Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) which will allow for a higher level of training prior to conversion to operational flying squadrons such as those that fly the MRH-90 Taipan and MH-60R Romeo helicopters.
Commander Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Vince Di Pietro, Member for Gilmore, Mrs Ann Sudmalis, and Director National Air and Maritime Group, Group Captain Ian Browning, each took up a shovel for a sod turning ceremony on the site of what will become the new home for initial helicopter training for Navy and Army aircrew at HMAS Albatross.
The project includes a new training centre, refurbished hangars and workshops and new living accommodation.
Commodore Di Pietro said the ceremony provided an important opportunity to acknowledge how much had already been achieved and what the project would mean.
“The modernisation of this terrific base with its proud heritage of being the home of Naval aviation is giving it a long-awaited facelift and today we add another footprint on the journey toward this being arguably the most advanced helicopter base in the southern hemisphere,” he said.
“What is currently done with whiteboards and magnetic training aids will be done with computer-based modules and simulation.
“Emergencies we currently train for in real helicopters we will do in flight simulators.
“The longevity of what we are commemorating here today is not lost on any of us here in uniform and we acknowledge and recognise the taxpayers trust.”
Group Captain Browning, said the sod turning was an important milestone and the result of a significant amount of hard work.
“HMAS Albatross is undergoing a major transformation to support the day to day capability outputs for Army Aviation and the Fleet Air Arm and the units that support that capability.
“This journey started back in early 2013, and in the two and half years since that time the project has progressed from initial concepts and thoughts about what facilities might be required to support the newly envisioned helicopter training system.
“We have finally arrived at the point where people like myself who are involved in the construction industry derive a great deal of satisfaction, and that is the point where we transition from the drawings and reports - the intangibles, to the tangible - concrete, steel and glass - buildings that will stand for many decades. and will endure as acknowledgement of a move into a new era for initial helicopter training for the Navy and Army.”
All works at HMAS Albatross are planned to be completed by mid-2017.
In full flight, the facility has a training capacity of up to 130 students a year covering pilots, aviation warfare officers, aircrewmen, sensor operators and qualified aircrew returning for instructor training.
Introduction of the new system will allow for students to be trained at the new facilities from 2018.