Australian landing helicopter dock reaches another aviation milestone

Leading Seaman Aviation Support Gabriella Hayllar directs a Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter onto the deck of HMAS Canberra to conduct First of Class Flight Trials. Photo: Royal Australian Navy

In a new aviation milestone, Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Canberra will be embarking two Army Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters for the first time.

The two Tigers, will join two MRH-90 Taipan medium lift helicopters and one MH-60R Seahawk conducting first of class flight trials onboard the amphibious giant over the next six weeks.

The trials are designed to find the safe operating limits of the helicopters during a variety of weather conditions, according to Lieutenant Grant Thaler, who will oversee the trials.

Lieutenant Thaler is a flight test engineer from the Navy’s aircraft maintenance and flight trials unit, based at HMAS Albatross, in Nowra.

“I am looking forward to seeing just what we can achieve,” Lieutenant Thaler said.

“It is a very capable aircraft from a handling qualities perspective and its handling characteristics are favourable in quite extreme wind conditions; however, I am interested to see how it copes with pitch and roll on deck.

“It will also be exciting to see the MRH-90 Taipan, MH-60R Seahawk and the ARH Tiger all operating in an aviation battle group for the first time.”

The two helicopters are from 1st Aviation Regiment in Darwin, Northern Territory, and the Army School of Aviation in Oakey, Queensland.

Lieutenant Thaler said the primary role of the helicopter on land is as a reconnaissance aircraft.

When operating from a ship the helicopter would be used for forward scouting and as an escort for the MRH-90 Taipan helicopters.

The trials will be conducted over a six week period as Canberra operates off the east coast of Australia.

The ship will transit as far north as Townsville and then head south to Melbourne where the trials will conclude.

“Last year we conducted deck handling trials onboard sister ship HMAS Adelaide, and one of the first things we will do here is continue to validate the deck handling and ship interface elements from that first trial,” Lieutenant Thaler said.

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