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June 9, 2011
By CPL Melanie Schinkel
AFTER serving 44 years and
instructing more than 200 tactical
coordinators and helicopter pilots,
including Prince Andrew, Navy's
longest-serving Seahawk pilot has
opted to continue training future
aviators as a reservist.
Throughout his successful
career, high-flyer CMDR Leigh
Costain, 61, has flown more than
8500 hours in 20 different types of
aircraft, including the Squirrel and
CMDR Costain said he decided
to gradually ease into retirement
and was doing his reserve time at
HMAS Albatross as part of 816
"I haven't completely retired yet.
At the moment I'm training per-
sonnel in the Seahawk simulator,"
CMDR Costain said.
"After so many years of flying,
I decided it was time to give away
that part of my career. When you
know, you know -- it's just my time
to stop flying and I have no regrets.
"My job in the RAN has been
inspiring. I really enjoyed teach-
ing people to fly. Training some-
one from scratch was particularly
rewarding because I saw their
progression from trainee to fully-
fledged pilot, which instilled a great
sense of achievement and pride in
CMDR Costain joined the RAN
in 1967 and began flying Squirrel
helicopters in 1972. During the
1980s, he worked on the Seahawk
Project and was one of Navy's first
pilots to fly the Seahawk helicopter.
"There is some Service history
in my family. My dad was in the Air
Force and my uncle served in the
Navy," CMDR Costain said.
"My dad really wanted me to
become an accountant, but I didn't
want to spend my life stuck behind
a desk. Initially, I joined the Navy
to do an apprenticeship but after
four years I transferred to become a
"After I completed my pilot
training at RAAF Base Pearce, I
was posted to Albatross to fly
Macchi and Skyhawk jets."
He said one of the highlights
of his career was completing the
instructor course at the Central
Flying School in England.
"Following the course I did a
two-and-a-half year exchange post-
ing with 705 Squadron at RNAS
Culdrose in Cornwall. I guess call-
ing Prince Andrew one of my stu-
dents was significant but every stu-
dent is just as important as the next.
"Another noteworthy memory
involved taking a flight to the Gulf
in 1990 during the Seahawk Project.
At that stage, we weren't even a
Apart from training the Duke of
York, CMDR Costain also taught
816 Squadron's Commanding
Officer, CMDR Shane Craig, in the
"As a student, CMDR Craig was
very diligent and professional. He
has an easygoing nature and was a
pleasure to teach -- I guess I have to
say that because now he's my boss,
but no, seriously, he's great to work
with," CMDR Costain said.
CMDR Craig attributed CMDR
Costain's long and impressive
career to his love for the job.
"Leigh has enjoyed every one
of those years. You don't reach the
milestones that he has without hav-
ing a real passion for what you do,"
CMDR Craig said.
"He's definitely Navy's longest
-serving Seahawk pilot -- no one
else has even come close to his
3400 Seahawk flying hours."
Birdie retires after
44 rewarding years
SKY'S THE LIMIT:
(Above) CMDR Leigh
Costain (left) has
retired from permanent
service after 44 years
in the RAN. Here
CDRE Timothy Barrett
Costain on reaching
8000 flying hours.
Photo: ABIS Craig Owen
By FLTLT Mick McGirr
SAILORS from Australia's Federation
Guard (AFG) say their deployment to
commemorate the 70th anniversary of
the Battle of Greece and Crete is the
highlight of their careers.
Both LSBM Andrew Rose and
ABHSO Theresa Whyte found their
reflection of the German invasion of
Greece, the fighting withdrawal of the
Australian, British and New Zealand
troops and eventual evacuation of many
to Crete to be overwhelming.
LSBM Andrew Rose, who joined in
1981, has a lot of military history in his
family and now he's experiencing it first
"I joined the AFG to help maintain
military traditions and encourage young-
er sailors to remember the spirit of the
Navy," he said.
"Since being at the AFG I've really
enjoyed passing on my skills and knowl-
Initially working in hospitality before
joining the Army, ABHSO Theresa
Whyte transferred to the Navy after
spending one year at the AFG.
"The AFG offered the opportunity for
travel, good physical training, and I like
the drill and ceremonial aspects of the
military," ABHSO Whyte said.
After completing her Navy training,
ABHSO Whyte was posted to a num-
ber of hydrographic ships and bases in
northern Queensland before returning to
the Guard in 2010, this time as a sailor.
"This trip has been fantastic -- meet-
ing the veterans and learning about all
the history in Greece has been great,"
April and May this year marked
the 70th anniversary of the Battle
for Greece and Crete.
Commonwealth forces faced
a German airborne invasion
on May 20 but the Allies were
defeated after 10 days of fight-
ing.More than 600 Australians
lost their lives in the battle and
about 5000 became prisoners
Battle for Greece
for AFG sailors
PAYING RESPECT: LSBM
Andrew Rose at the Phaleron
Commonwealth War Cemetery
while, inset, ABHSO Theresa
Whyte comes to attention dur-
ing the ceremony.
Photos: CPL Janine Fabre
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