HMAS Canberra flight trials a tri-service undertaking

An Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, ARH Tiger, takes off from HMAS Canberra's flight deck. Photo: Royal Australian Navy

The first of class flight trials that Royal Australian Navy’s landing helicopter dock HMAS Canberra conducted demanded engagement of Army test pilots, Navy flight test engineers and Air Force technicians, all working on the task.

Canberra’s Commander Air, Commander Adrian Capner said that military aviation was increasingly becoming a whole-of-Defence endeavour.

“This ship is indicative of that with our Air Force Joint Battlespace Air Controllers, our Army operations personnel and Army embarked assets,” Commander Capner said.

“It’s becoming more and more of a joint environment and it’s working very well.”

The officer in charge of the Navy’s Aviation Maintenance and Flight Test Unit, Commander David Hutchinson was overseeing the trials. His team has members from 1st Aviation Regiment, Army Aviation Test and Evaluation Squadron and the Air Force Air Warfare Engineering Squadron.

“We also have a US Navy test pilot, Lieutenant Mike Lindsey, from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron – TWO ONE as part of the MH-60R test team,” Commander Hutchinson said.

The Flight Test Unit brings to the trial 50 years of first of class flight trials and ship interface testing experience.

“What we do not have is the deep level operational understanding regarding how the Army aircraft can be best employed from this class of ship. This is where the direct involvement and input from the 1st Aviation Regiment and Test and Evaluation Squadron is absolutely critical to a successful trial outcome.”

One of the more junior members of the trials team is Aircraftsman Jayeshkumar Prajapati from Air Warfare Engineering Squadron in Edinburgh, in South Australia.

“I’m here to support the telemetry system and work as a ground station equipment operator,” Aircraftsman Prajapati said.

The telemetry system collects a range of data from the aircraft and relays it to a ground station on the ship where the data is recorded and analysed by flight test engineers.

This was Aircraftsman Prajapati’s first time on a ship and he said he found it very challenging when he first arrived.

The ship’s crew have been really friendly and they have helped me out and I’m starting to find my way around,” he said.

“Working with the Navy has shown me how dynamic their environment is and it has been a good opportunity for me to see how we can all work together.”

Commander Capner said he was very happy to see the level of integration between the various units and the ship’s company.

“I think our ship embraces visitors very well and I certainly think the embarked personnel have come here with a great attitude, ready to integrate and become part of the crew and to work together,” he said.

The trials will develop ship helicopter operating limitation data for the MRH-90, MH-60R and the ARH Tiger aircraft.

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