Sitting in the front seat of a helicopter, with its cutting-edge sensor and weapon systems, is a standard day at the office for a maritime aviation warfare officer.
CAPTION: Navy Fleet Air Arm personnel at HMAS Albartros: Sub Lieutenant Stephanie Hudson, left, Lieutenant Rhianna Nelson, Sub Lieutenant Tiffany McCormack, Sub Lieutenant Grace Bonnitcha and Lieutenant Clare Nickels. Story by Midshipman Jordan Moloney. Photo by Leading Seaman Ryan Tascas.
The limitless opportunities in this challenging and rapidly evolving role are a major incentive for the female aviators who spoke about their experiences ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.
Lieutenant Katie Scicluna was drawn to the aviation branch by the warfare and mission command aspects, and as a pathway to being an instructor in the future.
“A career highlight has been going to RIMPAC [Exercise Rim of the Pacific] with a MH-60R, and working with other countries’ aircraft and ships in exercise,” Lieutenant Scicluna said.
Acting Sub Lieutenant Stephanie Hudson, who is currently undergoing pre-flying phase and technical systems training, said she joined Navy to challenge herself in a field that is constantly changing, while Lieutenant Rhianna Nelson wanted to pursue a career as an aviator for the opportunity to be a flight mission commander.
“The aircraft is incredibly capable and to be flying in this thing low-level along the south coast during training, you have to take a moment to remember only a small amount of people get to experience this, and that’s a pretty awesome feeling,” Lieutenant Nelson said.
Lieutenant Nelson said Navy aviation was a small part of the fleet, so the personnel in it were lucky to be able to work together with the same group of people through their careers and build solid friendships.
“The aviation community is inclusive and everyone just wants to see people achieving great things regardless of gender, and it’s a great place to work,” she said.
“It has been a long road; I am excited to be at the final stage and looking forward to putting my training into action with a flight posting in the future.”
As a 16-year-old, Lieutenant Clare Nickels set her sights on becoming a Navy pilot, inspired by a family friend who was an F-111 pilot in the RAAF.
She later transferred to the role of observer, something she’d never heard of before joining Navy in 2004.
Lieutenant Nickels encouraged other women to consider a career in aviation.
“When I have worked in a unit with more women, it’s a much better place to work, but also, this is just the greatest job,” Lieutenant Nickels said.
“Whether I’ve been at sea or working in my current job doing test and evaluation and delivering tangible capability to Navy, it’s incredibly rewarding and I’ve done stuff that 16-year-old Clare could never have even imagined.”