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September 1, 2011
By Graham McBean
THREE Navy aviators from the
Sunshine State are reaching new
heights at 816 Squadron as the first
all-female aircrew in the Navy.
LCDR Helen Anderson, LEUT
Sally Malone and LS Carly Mercer
all joined the Navy from south-east
Queensland and found themselves at
HMAS Albatross in Nowra crewing
an S-70B-2 Seahawk on August 8.
While the Navy has had female
aircrew for some time, it's the first
time that fate and circumstances
have brought three women togeth-
er on a single platform in the one
Aviation Warfare Officer LCDR
Anderson said it was an historic
milestone for female aviation in the
"Essentially, it is the first time
we have had a female for each of the
three positions in the aircrew that
have been qualified on type," LCDR
"At the same time we are treated
it is no different than any other three
people flying together."
LCDR Anderson gradu-
ated from the Australian Defence
Force Academy (ADFA) in 2001
with a Bachelor of Technology
She joined 816 Squadron in 2004
and completed operational flying
training on the Seahawk in 2006.
She completed the Force Warfare
Officer Course in 2008 and then
went on to an instructor's course at
the start of 2009.
LCDR Anderson also instructs
tactical and warfare ground school,
simulator and airborne sorties to avi-
ation warrant officer, pilot and air-
crewmen students at 816 Squadron.
She said their achievement would
help raise awareness of the opportu-
nities for women in Navy aviation.
"These jobs are available to
women and not just aviation aircrew
but in maintenance and engineering
positions as well," she said.
"We have females coming
through in ever-increasing numbers
and we want that to continue."
LEUT Malone and LS Mercer,
who both went through their basic
training on helicopters together in
2007, are preparing for separate
operational deployments in the next
few months in their core trades.
It was love at first flight for LS
Mercer when she had the opportu-
Air crew reaches new heights
nity to fly in a Seahawk during her
first Gulf deployment in 2003.
She had never flown in a helicop-
ter before and said it was "her most
vivid memory" of flying.
"Coming back from that flight I
was on the biggest high of my flying
experience," LS Mercer said.
"I thought 'that's it, I want to do
LS Mercer joined the RAN
as a Combat Systems Operator
(Underwater) (CSO-U) in 2001 and
has deployed twice on operations to
the Middle East.
She completed her CSO-U inter-
mediate course in 2006 but wanted
to pursue her passion for flying in
the Navy and began the Aircrewman
Basic Rotary Course in 2007.
After finishing dux of her course,
LS Mercer flew on the AS350
Squirrel before being trained as a
sensor operator on the Seahawk.
For pilot LEUT Malone, her pas-
sion to fly began in high school and
she joined the Navy in 2001 as an
ADFA entry pilot trainee.
She completed her basic flying
course at Tamworth and was posted
to 723 Squadron to complete her
basic rotary course.
During her career as a helicopter
pilot, LEUT Malone has flown the
Agusta 109 and the Seahawk with
Flight 1 aboard HMAS Stuart.
The crew's first routine flight
was tame by comparison to the real
missions LEUT Malone has piloted,
including support to the Victorian
But while LEUT Malone said she
hoped there would be many more
female aircrews to follow she didn't
want to overstate the occasion.
"I've felt like the opportunities
have always been there -- it's just
never felt like it was a hurdle."
THE Naval Aviation Sea Survival
Centre (NASSC) at HMAS Albatross
has produced a new training DVD
to allay fears and dispel some of the
myths associated with Helicopter
Underwater Escape Training
Produced with the assistance of the
Navy Video Unit, the DVD is a first for
the NASSC and features three gap-year
students and two aspiring aviators.
NASSC OIC LCDR Richard Foster
said his students did a great job.
"They performed exceptionally well,
especially since I was asking them to
take their time and do everything right
while holding their breath -- all while
being filmed," he said.
He said the NASSC trained around
2000 personnel in underwater survival
skills each year, with about 70 per cent
of students arriving with some trepida-
"Some students have a fear of water
or confined spaces," LCDR Foster said.
"The HUET instructor's job is to
allay those fears and give them the con-
fidence in their own ability to escape
an aircraft that has crashed or ditched
into the water."
While many find their HUET expe-
rience daunting, LCDR Foster said the
experience was invaluable.
The DVD will be sent to the RAN
Fleet and major Army units and used
during employment exhibitions and
HUET DVD allays fears
New aviation opportunities
THE RAN is introducing a new
Aviation Support (AVN) category
to carry out flight deck and hangar
deck operations on the Canberra-
class Landing Helicopter Dock
The Navy People Career
Management Cell is seeking applica-
tions from SMN to CPO who wish
to transfer to the new category.
CPOB Mark Woodall, from the
AVN Category Implementation team
at the Fleet Air Arm, said the new
category was an exciting opportu-
"This is a new capability well
suited to those with an interest in
aviation and hands-on work with air-
craft on a floating airfield, with mul-
ti-spot flying operations," he said.
"AVNs will be required to fulfil
a variety of flight deck, hangar and
administrative duties both at sea and
ashore. Applicants must be physi-
cally fit, mentally strong and capable
of working in a small team."
Training will also include spe-
cialist aircraft fire-fighting and crash
"AVNs will be working with
a dedicated team of professionals
moving, spotting and securing air-
craft in all types of weather condi-
tions," CPO Woodall said.
For more information contact CPOB
Woodall on (02) 4424 1860 or email
new Aviation Support
category is being
introduced to support
the LHDs when they
Image: BAE Systems
HISTORIC MOMENT: LS Carly Mercer,
LCDR Helen Anderson and LEUT Sally-
Anne Malone make up Navy's first all-
female flight crew at 816 Squadron.
Photo: ABIS Hayley Clarke
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