Aussie pilots to fill helicopter vacancies
By Patricia Kime - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Jun 17, 2007 9:58:17 EDT
In the coming months, four Royal Australian Navy pilots will arrive in the U.S. for a new duty assignment — to serve as co-pilots aboard Coast Guard helicopters.
The Coast Guard and the RAN cemented an agreement May 24 for a unique “loaner” program, one that will put RAN pilots in cockpits in San Diego, San Francisco, Miami and Cape Cod, Mass.
The pilots will serve with the Coast Guard for three to four years. Two will fly the HH-60 Jayhawk; the other two will be assigned to the HH-65 Dolphin, officials said.
All will train to become aircraft commanders.
“We came up with a great deal. [The RAN] was looking to relieve a bottleneck in their program and, we, with our projected growth in aviation, have shortages projected,” said Rear Adm. David Pekoske, assistant commandant for operations.
All four pilots hail from the same unit, 723 Squadron based in Nowra, Australia. They are trained on the Eurocopter Squirrel and S-70B-2 Seahawk, a version of the Sikorsky H-60 Black Hawk, and normally do logistics operations.
The loaner program will allow the RAN to retain pilots and maintain their skill sets even without positions for them, U.S. and Australian officials say.
“From an operational perspective, we’ll be giving them additional skill sets — search and rescue, aids to navigation,” Pekoske said.
Lt. Ben Wenban, 25, of Orange, New South Wales, was the first to arrive in the U.S. When he touched down in Boston in late May in summer whites — a uniform of white shorts, long white socks and white shoes — he received curious stares, but he’s rapidly settling into the routine at Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, he said.
“It’s a beautiful area. I don’t think I should have come to a nicer place in the United States,” Wenban said.
In late June, he’ll deploy to Mobile, Ala., for two months of training on the HH-60 Jayhawk platform.
When he returns to Cape Cod, he’ll be inserted into the regular co-pilot rotation.
“The weather here is said to be very extreme. Combining doing the operational work with the harsh conditions, I think it’s going to be a good experience,” Wenban said.
In Australia, Wenban’s squadron did mainly logistics support work and maritime patrolling.
At Cape Cod, he’ll likely participate in search and rescue, homeland security, law enforcement and maritime interdiction missions, as well as some aids to navigation work.
“I’m very excited to do search and rescue. It will be extremely challenging but rewarding at the same time,” Wenban said.
Like all pilots, Wenban and his mates will take on collateral duties, too, such as flight scheduling, flight standards or flight safety positions.
‘We need to fill cockpits’
In the next decade, the Coast Guard will expand its aviation program, adding new aircraft including at least two RU-38B Twin Condor reconnaissance planes, as many as 30 CASA-235 maritime patrol aircraft and six HC-130J aircraft.
Although the expansion is limited to fixed-wing aviation, Coast Guard pilots are cross-trained in both fixed wing and rotor aircraft. Thus, the service needs additional pilots as the new programs come online.
“We need to fill cockpits. We have a projected shortage on pilots over the next six to 10 years,” said Capt. Mike Moore, former chief of aviation forces.
Mindful of its tight budget, the Coast Guard jumped at a chance to bolster its pilot ranks without paying additional salaries. Plus, the loaner program gives the Coast Guard and the RAN a chance to work together and forge ties for future cooperation, officials say.
“This is a small community; you’re likely to see each other again,” Pekoske said.
The Coast Guard has pilot exchange programs with the United Kingdom and Canada. However, the agreement with Australia is more of a loan: The Australian pilots will receive their salaries and allowances from the RAN while training, and operations will be financed by the Coast Guard.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Pekoske said.
Good for them! The Aussies are def ours friends.
I wonder how their aussie salary will carry them here.
We had an Aussie pilot with us for 2 years...He flew real world missions with us, we sent out guys to Australia and Canada as well. This is not a new thing.
In the late 1990's, we had a mid air with an Aussie Hornet driver and our Herc. He brought back a badly damaged Hornet....Worked out well only pride was hurt and some metal was bent.
Guess your loadmaster/observer was asleep at the time.
Sounds like a Win-Win situation to me.
Nope, I was training the Mech, the load was on the other side....Saw the whole thing. Supposed the hit the drouge at 4kts closure, when he got cleared to plug, he nailed the basket...way to fast, the LH pod hydraulics couldnt keep up with it, sinewave snapped his probe off (as desinged, at the shear point), but he kept creeping towards us, as I said "Broken Hose, left!" the nose of his Hornet hit out LH pod, as he slowed the hose and his boom wrapped around his left vert stab, and did some damage, the FE cut the hose, 1/2 went in his #1 motor, the other half (bent over) was slamming on the top of his aircraft with the boom..it all fell away...
He stabilized, I told our guys to tell him 1/2 of his LH vert stab was gone, LH rudder was gone and the entire leading edge was missing.
After we debriefed and he told us he nailed it...he said the computer took over and he felt nothing as far as a control surface being missing, a motor out and a leading edge of a vert stab gone.
Investigation proved he hit us way to fast.
I was in a KA-3B out over the Inyo-Kern area, we were doing refueling training for the F-18 rag out of Lemoore.
There were two nugget pilots and a Marine LtCol who was their instructor.
We had the hose out, I was watching the F-18's off to the sides.
One of the nuggets was having a problem hitting the basket, he tried for 10 minutes.
The LtCol finally told the guy to move over he was going to show him how it was done.
I felt him hit the basket and run the hose up until he ran out of response.
The hose sine-waved back at him and snapped his probe off in the basket.
He came up beside us and asked for a "damage report".
He had a little fuel streaming out of the broken end of his probe, I suggest that he retract what was left of his probe and head home.
We tried to retract the hose, but ended up with about 4 feet that would not reel in.
Me and the pilot made the decision not to cut the hose and not to take the wire at home.
We landed with the basket banging up against the belly of our plane, no damage done, and the F-18 probe stayed in.
I pulled the basket (it was fucked) and sent it to the ready room along with the probe.
A couple weeks later the O's had the probe mounted on a display and sent back to Lemoore and the LtCol's squadron.
He sent us (the crew) a bottle of Jack Danials and a case of beer. I got the beer.