From training amid COVID-19 challenges, to supporting air-to-air refuelling on exercise, a career as a crew attendant has been exciting so far for Leading Aircraftwoman Hannah Heaney.
CAPTION: Air Force crew attendant Leading Aircraftwoman Hannah Heaney supports aircrew on board a KC-30A during air-to-air refuelling operations with a P-8A Poseidon as part of Exercise Diamond Seas 2022. Story by Flight Lieutenant Tanya Carter. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Kate Czerny.
Leading Aircraftwoman Heaney already had a job offer from an airline when she discovered she could join the Australian Defence Force (ADF) gap year program as a crew attendant.
“My parents are into hang gliding and I meet all sorts of random people through their club,” Leading Aircraftwoman Heaney said.
“One of the members of their club, a navigator in the Air Force, encouraged me to apply for the ADF gap year and give the Air Force a go.
“At that stage, I wasn’t aware the Air Force had career options such as a crew attendant.”
Securing a spot in the 2020 Gap Year Program as a crew attendant, Leading Aircraftwoman Heaney ditched all previous plans with the airlines and began preparations for a trial year in Air Force.
At 19 years old, she farewelled her family and hometown of Tocumwal in New South Wales on the banks of the Murray River, and set off by train to commence 02/2020 initial recruit training course at RAAF Base Wagga.
Three weeks into the 13-week course, Leading Aircraftwoman Heaney and her course mates struck a snag – COVID-19 had arrived and it changed everything.
The course was confined to RAAF Base Wagga for the duration of her training, unable to see family and friends.
“It was hard not being able to see my family but it was good in its own way – as a course we became very close, almost like family,” Leading Aircraftwoman Heaney said.
Considering the impact COVID-19 had on the aviation industry over the past two years, Leading Aircraftwoman Heaney said she was grateful she chose the path she did.
After initial recruit training, Leading Aircraftwoman Heaney was posted to No. 33 Squadron based at RAAF Base Amberley.
No. 33 Squadron operates a fleet of seven KC-30A multi-role tanker transport aircraft and provides air-to-air refuelling and strategic airlift capability for Defence.
As a crew attendant, Leading Aircraftwoman Heaney is responsible for the safe carriage of Defence personnel on KC-30As to destinations around Australia and the globe.
“I love working on the KC-30, the job is constantly changing – one day we are in the office planning a trip, the next day we are flying to Hawaii,” Leading Aircraftwoman Heaney said.
Recently, she took to the skies supporting aircrew for air-to-air refuelling operations with an P-8A Poseidon as a part of Exercise Diamond Seas 2022.
During refuelling missions, the KC-30A will fly in close formation with other aircraft at up to 700 kilometres per hour.
For Exercise Diamond Seas, the air refuelling officer controlled the telescopic boom mounted on the tail of the KC-30A to transfer fuel to the P-8A. Once refuelled, the P-8A returned to its air-maritime integration mission for the exercise.
When asked what the future holds, her eyes light up and she is quick to respond.
“I would like to commission as an air refuelling officer. I’ve seen it live, I love watching it and I think it’s a great career,” Leading Aircraftwoman Heaney said.
CAPTION: RAAF crew attendant Leading Aircraftwoman Hannah Heaney supports aircrew on board a KC-30A multi-role tanker transport. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Kate Czerny.