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Mountain Flying with the Iroquois and the A109

An RNZAF pilot in the A109 cockpit.
RNZAF pilot in the A109 cockpit.

The exercise has traditionally been the domain of No 3 Squadron crew and the Iroquois helicopters.

This year two new A109LUH Helicopters and their crews joined No. 3 Squadron for the annual mountain flying training as the Air Force starts the process of transitioning from the old to the new.

Transitioning to the A109LUH. The sleek Agusta helicopters entered service around 18 months ago and they are part way through the RNZAF’s development trials. The RNZAF has five new A109LUH helicopters and four NH90 helicopters; another four NH90 helicopters are to be delivered to New Zealand by the end of 2013.

The A109 is predominantly a training platform that will provide training for all NZDF helicopter air crew for the next 30 years. In addition, it can provide some light utility support to the NH90 helicopter and also support the New Zealand Police and the Special Air Service (SAS).

“The A109s will lend support to the NH90 by providing airborne command and control for ground force commanders. It can also provide limited backup support to rescues, however the NH90 is bigger, better equipped and better suited to search and rescue tasking,“ said SQNLDR Ron Thacker, the A109 Detachment Commander for Exercise Blackbird.

“The A109 has two engines which has significant implications for how the performance of the aircraft is managed. It is a sophisticated aircraft with advanced technology, and that is especially evident in the glass cockpit. The avionics allows the aircrew much more capacity to concentrate on navigation and communication and to manage the task environment,” said SQNLDR Thacker. “One of the reasons the A109 was chosen as a training platform is because the cockpit is quite similar to the NH90, and that makes it easier to train pilots and crewmen in the technology that they will use in the other aircraft,” he concluded.

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