Helicopter trainees take wing

723 Squadron is developing Navy and Army helicopter pilots and aircrew operators in a challenging course spanning nine and six months respectively.

CAPTIONArmy helicopter pilot Lieutenant Nicole Ravell and aircrew operator Corporal Corren James, of 723 Squadron, on the flight line at HMAS Albatross. Story by Captain Karam Louli. Photos by Leading Aircraftwoman Emma Schwenke.

The squadron, at the Joint Helicopter School at HMAS Albatross near Nowra, qualifies students on the EC-135T2+ helicopter before they specialise on Navy and Army helicopters.

Executive Officer 723 Squadron Major Timothy Colebatch said while pilots learned aerial manoeuvres, aircrew operators practised rescue and winching missions.

“The most challenging aspect of the trainee’s life at 723 Squadron is being under constant scrutiny during their training, both on course as students but also as soldiers, sailors and officers within the ADF,” Major Colebatch said.

CAPTIONAn EC-135T2+ helicopter from 723 Squadron taxis prior to take off from HMAS Albatross.

Army pilot Lieutenant Nicole Ravell said pilot training focused on cockpit controls, and basic and complex flying techniques.

“At 723, we learn low-level flying, instrument flying, formation flying and flying over water. We fly at night and conduct hook and hoist operations,” Lieutenant Ravell said.

“When you are given the thumbs up, there’s no better feeling. Receiving my wings was very rewarding.”

In contrast, the aircrew operators course teaches participants about assessing their environment and assisting the pilots in a range of operations.

CAPTIONCorporal Corren James conducts pre-flight checks of the winch cable on an EC-135T2+ helicopter at HMAS Albatross.

Corporal Corren James, an aircrew operator at 723 Squadron, said they worked on a variety of missions.

“Every day is different here at 723, from missions conducting approaches into very tight areas with trees or obstacles, to events such as Bathurst motor racing events,” Corporal James said.

“The team dynamic is completely different to anything else I’ve experienced in the wider Army. 723 sets the precedent of how we communicate in the aircraft.”





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