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Air Drop Exercise hits its target

Two RNZAF C-130 Hercules during EX SKYTRAIN

Since 27 February No. 40 Squadron have been camping out at Alexandra Airport in the South Island conducting Exercise SKYTRAIN, a RNZAF No. 40 Squadron exercise focused on tactical low-level flying. The Air Force contingent is being helped by soldiers from the Army.
The purpose of the exercise is to develop aircrew skills in map reading, low-level flying and accurate timekeeping to ensure that parachute loads are dropped in the designated drop zone. On exercise a variety of practice loads are dropped, ranging from large drums strapped to a pallet, to tractor tyres and old military vehicles.

Squadron Leader Andy Scott (Detachment Commander for SKYTRAIN) says the exercise is very much about ‘currency training,’ keeping personnel up to date with their training plans. In addition to the training for No. 40 Squadron personnel, No. 42 Squadron personnel are also going through their own training with their King Air B200s at the airfield. “It gives them a taste of what they will be working towards,” says Scott.

“We also conduct training for the support trades down here such as parachute riggers and medics. The other day we did training for aero-medical evacuation flights.”

The mock scene was injured people on the camp who had to be transported via the Hercules. This situation provided the opportunity for the medics to practice their procedures away from base in an environment that mirrors the real thing in real time.

For personnel assigned on exercise for training purposes, there’s very little downtime. “Pilots and navigators work really hard. Their day can start at 7.00am and finish at 10.00pm. That being said, the parachute packers are working until 8.00pm.”

It’s a gruelling day with three, three hour flights. The preparation that goes into each flight, and making sure all the training objectives are met, is immense.

Army chefs feed the 180 personnel on camp three times a day and all resources are transported in to and out of the camp. Expectations are that 30 flights be conducted over the 10 day period of the exercise.

Each flight involves the standard aircrew of a Hercules — pilot, co-pilot, engineer, navigator/air warfare officer and two loadmasters. In addition to this team, the aircraft will carry other personnel under training.
The exercise runs from 27 February to 9 March. Exercise SKYTRAIN was last held in 2008.


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