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NZDF maritime helicopters get ultimate test

Helicopter Loadmaster CPO Douglas Greig enjoys the view from his “office” while on a Royal New Zealand Air Force SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopter conducting mountain and alpine flying training near Dip Flat in the Nelson Lakes National Park during Exercise BLUEBIRD.

Helicopter Loadmaster CPO Douglas Greig enjoys the view from his “office” while on a Royal New Zealand Air Force SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopter conducting mountain and alpine flying training near Dip Flat in the Nelson Lakes National Park during Exercise BLUEBIRD.

19 September 2016

Two Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Seasprite helicopters and their crews are in the midst of a hectic two weeks, flying in challenging terrain during Exercise Bluebird.

They are in Marlborough taking part in the annual exercise, which trains the Seasprite crews in mountain flying.

“Ex Bluebird allows us to conduct flying over terrain that presents unique challenges, while practising maintenance and logistical support away from home. This training is essential to ensure our personnel are equipped to conduct operations wherever they are required,” said Air Commodore Darryn Webb, New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) Air Component Commander.

“The SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopters are a versatile asset that can be deployed in a variety of tasks, including search and rescue, disaster relief, anti-submarine warfare and dropping supplies to locations such as Raoul Island.”

Exercise Bluebird is also an opportunity for the crews to interact with communities that do not see these aircraft often.

Operations Flight Commander, Lieutenant Commander Andrew Dowling, said the exercise was an essential stage in the development of his aircrew. 

“Some of the disaster relief and island re-supply flying that the crews do while deployed on Royal New Zealand Navy vessels requires mountain flying techniques so that tasks can be completed safely. Bluebird gives my crew the confidence and tools to do their jobs effectively and in the best tradition of the NZDF,” he said.

NZDF has eight Seasprite helicopters, which form No. 6 Squadron in the RNZAF. Seasprites are crewed by the Royal New Zealand Navy because the helicopters are used primarily on Navy vessels.

Each Seasprite is crewed by a pilot, an observer and a helicopter loadmaster, and can carry up to five passengers. The helicopters are also equipped to carry out evacuations, with the ability to carry two stretchers and two medical attendants.

The helicopters and crew will be based at Woodbourne, near Blenheim, from 12-23 September and will be flying throughout Marlborough, including inland Kaikoura, and Dip Flat in the Nelson Lakes National Park.

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