The final training exercise for students on a Royal New Zealand Air Force course turned real when their aircraft was diverted to join a search for a missing boat with eleven people, including children, on board this week.
CAPTION: No. 5 Squadron 15/01 Orion Conversion Course graduates pose in front of the P-3K2 Orion on which they participated in a real-life search and rescue operation during their training.
Eleven students were on a No 5 Squadron P-3K2 Orion on a routine training flight from RNZAF Base Auckland at Whenuapai to Minerva Reef, then onward to Fiji and Tonga, when the aircraft received the change in tasking from Headquarters.
The crew spent two hours searching and spotting several likely vessels, before the aircraft needed to land in Tonga to refuel.
No 5 Squadron Executive Officer Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Glen Donaldson said: “This was the final mission for the students on this nine-month conversion course. They had practised Search and Rescue procedures on the course but this was the first time they used those skills in a real life situation.
“It was a very good test for students, whose graduation ceremony took place today, and a great introduction to what can be the dynamic and changeable nature of air operations.”
The students on the course included three pilots, three air warfare officers, four air warfare specialists and an air ordnance specialist. Eight of the trainees are new to the RNZAF and two of the others have joined from the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force.
The conversion course gives trainees technical and practical training in the systems and sensors of the P-3K2, the various roles of No 5 Squadron and how to “”fight” the aircraft in performing its various roles.
So far this year No 5 Squadron aircraft have carried out 9 SAR missions totalling 132 hours in the air..