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Air Force Holds Year's Largest Helicopter Exercise In Marlborough

Helicopter Crewman SGT Timmy Wilson in action with one of three Iroquois training in low-level alpine flying at Exercise Blackbird.
Helicopter Crewman SGT Timmy Wilson in action with one of three Iroquois training in low-level alpine flying at Exercise Blackbird.

For the next two weeks the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) will be conducting its largest annual helicopter training course in the Marlborough and Kaikoura regions. Exercise Blackbird will involve over 80 personnel with three Iroquois, three A109 and two NH90 helicopters.

Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Mike Yardley says the exercise trains the crews in low-level alpine flying - a core skill given the New Zealand topography and the missions the Air Force undertakes both here and overseas.

“The Air Force conducts a number of operations every year in conjunction with New Zealand Land Search and Rescue and the NZ Police. This training ensures we are prepared for the wide variety of terrain and environments we encounter on operations.

“Exercise Blackbird provides a great opportunity to train our more junior crew members so they can become more experienced in alpine operations. The Marlborough and Kaikoura mountainous region is a great training ground for us.”

This is the first year the NH90 helicopter will be participating in the exercise. The aircraft will be flying development sorties with the intent to use the NH90 for high altitude flying operations from the end of 2014.

“The NH90 helicopter is a big step up from Iroquois for the Air Force. The NH90 have a significantly longer range and endurance, they can fly to Australia or the South Pacific Islands; and they can lift up to 3,200kgs of cargo. This helicopter is a key asset in any future disaster relief and search and rescue operations undertaken by the RNZAF,” says Air Vice-Marshal Yardley.

Exercise Blackbird will be operating out of the Dip Flat Defence Area from 22 September to 5 October.

ENDS

For more information contact Defence Communications Group 021 487 980

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