The Royal Australian Navy’s Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit (AMAFTU) has commenced first of class flight trials (FOCFT) for the new Airbus Helicopters EC135 training helicopters and the aviation training vessel, MV Sycamore.
The trials of the Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) EC135s are initially being conducted in Jervis Bay on the NSW south coast near the HATS base at Nowra, and will then transition to the waters off Cairns in Queensland.
The FOCFT mission is required to establish and develop the ship’s helicopter operating limits (SHOL) for a new aircraft type and ship class. The aircraft are flown at various weights and approach profiles, in benign and challenging wind conditions, and with the vessel stopped and underway. The vessel’s aviation facilities and flightdeck crew are also tested to ensure equipment and procedures are appropriate.
MV Sycamore is operated by a contractor crew from Serco, and has just one permanent RAN officer onboard.
“Sycamore will provide Navy with a range of services, but first among equals is aviation training,” Commander Andrew Rohrsheim told Navy Daily.
“With specified aviation support systems and a dedicated flightdeck team, she will soon be able to provide trained and qualified sailors, officers and aircrew for immediate benefit to the fleet.”
So far the FOCFT effort has seen more than 200 day and night EC135 recoveries aboard Sycamore in preparation for instructors and staff training at the end of 2017, and the first batch of students in 2018.