Australian Navy aviation training vessel MV Sycamore hosts first helicopter trials

Photo: Royal Australian Navy

Shortly after arriving in Sydney from Vietnam, the Royal Australian Navy’s new aviation training vessel MV Sycamore hosted its first aircraft for flight trials.

The Australian Navy’s future training helicopter EC-135 carried out first of class flight trials from MV Sycamore off the eastern seaboard.

The trials are an important step in developing the safe limits for operations of a specific helicopter to a particular class of ship, commonly known as a ships helicopter operating limits or by the term, ‘SHOL’.

This trial was also the first time any aircraft has operated from Sycamore, thus allowing her aviation facilities to be tested and her crew being introduced to embarked helicopter operations.

Sycamore is operated by a contracted crew who are relishing the opportunity to apply their established mariner skills to a new and exciting role.

The ship’s flight deck team, also staffed by contractors, under the supervision of a Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Control Officer.

Commander Andrew Rohrsheim is the only permanent Royal Australian Navy officer posted to the ship.

The trials started in Jervis Bay, New South Wales, to develop a conservative ship helicopter operating limits, before transiting to waters off Cairns in Queensland, to enable data collection in a warmer atmosphere.

Lieutenant Tim Craig, from the Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit, said the data collection presented unique logistical challenges.

“Sycamore does not have a hangar and subsequently can’t embark a helicopter overnight,” he said.

“Arrangements had to be put in place for the aircraft to make a number of overnight stops, and eventually operate from the Cairns International Airport each day.”

The primary beneficiary of these trials is 723 Squadron and the new helicopter aircrew training system program.

“This will deliver a highly skilled workforce with rotary wing flying training for Navy pilots, aviation warfare officers, as well as Army pilots and loadmasters,” Lieutenant Commander Stiles said.

Once the trial concludes the aircraft will return to HMAS Albatross, in Nowra, and Sycamore to her home port of Sydney.

The newly developed EC-135 limits will be put to use at the end of 2017 when Instructors conduct staff training and deck landing qualifications, to prepare themselves to instruct the first batch of students in 2018.

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