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The Sky’s The Limit - Life as an HCM

CPL Ryan Woodley OH-09-0768-021.

By CPL Ryan Woodley

My interest in becoming a Helicopter Crewman (HCM) for the Royal New Zealand Air Force began while I was on a search for a missing tramper in the Lewis Pass, as a volunteer member for New Zealand Land, Search and Rescue.

I joined the RNZAF as an aircraft technician in 2002 with the goal of becoming an HCM. After eight years of training and experience as a technician, I re-mustered in 2009 to become an HCM and began Aircrew training. Training for an aircrew position in the RNZAF means you study a wide-range of subjects including aviation medicine, meteorology, aerodynamics, and weapons training.

One of the best courses—and toughest—was survival. I lost over seven kilograms in two weeks, while navigating and surviving in different terrain and being on the run from ‘enemy forces’ and dogs during the escape and evasion phase. This is a great course that prepares you for the incident of being the crew of a downed aircraft.

Being an HCM in the RNZAF means training for a wide variety of tasks:

  • dropping off a search team in the mountains
  • winching someone from a roof top during a flood
  • under slinging a load of water and food to a remote island village
  • inserting Army troops into a battle field
  • working with our Special Forces, and
  • helping to protect New Zealand interests on overseas deployments

During my time in the Air Force I have:

  • travelled all over New Zealand
  • deployed twice on operations to Timor-Leste
  • carried out an exercise in New Caledonia
  • opened the New Zealand War Memorial in Hyde Park, London, and
  • travelled to Malaysia, Bahrain, Canada, and Hawaii.

One of the benefits of a career in the Air Force is the quality and variety of training and opportunities—each day at work or around the country is interesting. Having served with the RNZAF for eight years, I can say it’s a great career choice