Taking hydrography to the sky is the unique task of the Laser Airborne Depth Sounder (LADS) flight is and one of the lesser known capabilities of the Royal Australian Navy’s Australian Hydrographic Service.
The Navy’s hydrographic fleet is most visible through the fleet of two Hydrographic Survey ships and four Survey Motor Launches, but looking upwards you may see the LADS Flight, which surveys large parts of the ocean to depths of up to 70 metres, using a specially modified de Havilland Dash 8 – 200 aircraft.
Commander of the Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Vince Di Pietro, CSC, visited the team at their home base at Cairns as part of the unit’s operational airworthiness audit. His visit coincided with a six and a half hour sortie surveying an area north of the Whitsundays, for which he embarked, and a period of training encompassing Aviation Medicine, Aviation Risk Management and Crew Resource Management.
“I was very impressed with the professionalism of the civilian flight crew and the Navy Hydrographic crew who operated the flight,” Commodore Di Pietro said.
“The LADS Flight was one of the first of its type in the world and provides the Navy with an important capability, giving us both a tactical advantage in navigation as well as providing a valuable service to the commercial maritime industry.”
Commanding Officer of the LADS Flight, Lieutenant Commander David Sowter, was pleased with the result of the audit.
“Achieving operational audit requirements is a key milestone, and to do so while showcasing our capability to the head of Naval Aviation is doubly pleasing,” Lieutenant Commander Sowter said.
The LADS Flight flies more than 140 sorties per year, including forward deployed operations from all parts of Australia and overseas such as Mackay, Cocos island, Papua New Guinea and Broome (where they are currently based for six weeks).