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Invaluable training for maritime helicopter crew.

By Pauline Stewart.

Last week, the Coromandel region provided the perfect conditions for Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopter training.

Using Whitianga Airfield as their base and supported by a maintenance team from Royal New Zealand Air Force’s No. 6 Squadron, the RNZN aircrew were in the region to undertake mountain flying training.

RNZN Sub Lieutenant Tom Usher was one of the personnel taking part in the Seasprite Operational Conversion Course, which teaches the crew how to operate the aircraft in advanced and challenging environments. It’s the first time that Sub Lieutenant Usher has put his hand to mountain flying.

“The Seasprite is a maritime warfare capable helicopter, so we’re usually based off the back of a ship. Mountain flying is a smaller part of my role, but we still need to train in different environments so we can respond when called upon. This week has been really invaluable,” the 30-year-old Aucklander said.

“The Coromandel is an excellent representation of the type of South Pacific environment that we are expected to operate in, with very similar terrain to places like the Solomon Islands, the Kermadecs and Sub - Antarctic Island chains. It’s a mixture of very sharp relief with high ridges and pinnacles, leading into deep, forested valleys,” he said. “The Seasprite normally operates over water at about 400 feet. In this training we were getting up to 3,000 feet, but the real difference is the terrain.

Most of Sub Lieutenant Usher’s family have served in the Royal Navy.

“I really enjoy the mental stimulation you get from the job. No two days in the Navy are the same. It’s about problem-solving and using the information to come to the best solution. I find it really rewarding and that’s what sets it aside from other jobs,” he said.

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Caption: RNZN Sub Lieutenant Tom Usher undertakes mountain flying training for the first time in the Coromandel region.

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