Getting sister squadron ready to fly

Seven Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) pilots travelled to the Institute of Aviation Medicine (IAM) at RAAF Base Edinburgh late last year to complete the first of a dedicated aviation medicine training course.

CAPTIONPilots from the PNG Defence Force with members of the RAAF Institute of Aviation Medicine during a training course at RAAF Base Edinburgh. Story by Flight Lieutenant Steffi Blavius. Photo by Squadron Leader Indra Garner.

The four-day aviation medicine course, made possible through the efforts of IAM, Wing Commander Bruce Walker and PNG Sovereign Air Capability Team and International Engagement’s Flight Lieutenant Phil Tweed, was an opportunity realised under Exercise Olgetta Aviator.

The training aimed to provide an understanding of medical, human factors and physiological problems associated with the aviation environment and enhance medical preparedness of PNGDF personnel. It was tailored to meet the unique requirements of the PNGDF Air Training Wing members.

The course covered crucial aviation medicine topics, including the effects of altitude on the human body, common issues during aviation duties, use of aircrew equipment, optimising individual medical fitness for flight, and impacts of medical conditions on flying duties.

The training involved a mix of lecture-based teaching and practical elements, such as practical hypoxia training, spatial disorientation training and night-vision laboratory exercises.

All seven PNGDF pilots successfully completed the initial aviation medicine training, equipping them for their future roles as aviators.

Reflecting on the experience, Flight Sergeant Joshua Baker, an aviation physical training officer at IAM, recalled a highlight of the course.

“Hypobaric chamber, hypoxia and spatial disorientation training is always a highlight for any course that comes through IAM. Despite the seriousness of this training, students take the opportunity to have a laugh while they get a good appreciation of what we are teaching and the potential severity related to it,” he said.

Flight Sergeant Baker, who previously served at 35 Squadron, noted the instant connection and sense of camaraderie between RAAF and PNGDF.

“With the involvement 35 Squadron has had with the PNGDF in the past, the PNGDF Air Training Wing participants were quite excited to still have the sister squadron interaction in a different way,” Flight Sergeant Baker said.

Wing Commander Timothy Shaw, of the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby, emphasised the growing relationship between Australia and PNG in military aviation and expressed hope for the future of IAM’s connection with the PNGDF.

“As the relationship develops, it is hoped that IAM can further support the PNGDF with refresher courses, more pilot initial courses at IAM, and other relevant training potentially being conducted in PNG,” Wing Commander Shaw said.


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