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Vital Deliveries to Tokelau

Pacific SAR Success

Looking Back on a Unique Year

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Airman of the Year

Contents 04

Vital deliveries to Tokelau


SAR training with agencies

10 12



Memories from the Whakaari/White Island Tragedy

First Word

International training during Covid

26 Training the Airmen of the Force


Special Ops training

Pacific SAR success



Long distance communications




Airman of the Year



29 The next innovators

32 Sport

33 Notices

Recruits restore war graves in Omaka



Published by Defence Public Affairs HQ NZ Defence Force Wellington, New Zealand

The RNZAF will provide New Zealand with relevant, responsive and effective Air Power to meet its security interests.


2020 – A Year Like No Other


An agile and adaptive Air Force with the versatility essential for NZDF operations. COVER: Airman of the Year, LAC Dennis Tommy PHOTOGRAPHER: CPL Dillon Anderson

Photo of the month

Editor Rebecca Quilliam Email: airforcenews@nzdf.mil.nz Design and Layout Defence Public Affairs Printed by Bluestar Private Bag 39996, Wellington Distribution Email: airforcenews@nzdf.mil.nz Editorial contributions and ideas are welcomed. They can be emailed directly to the Editor and do not need to be forwarded through normal command chains. Contributions need to include • writer’s name, rank and unit • photos provided separate from the text – at least 300dpi. Air Force News will hold the copyright for submitted articles or photographs it publishes. Articles and photographs published in Air Force News cannot be published elsewhere without permission. ISSN 1175–2327



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First Word I

n January I wrote that the coming year would bring some unexpected operations. Hard on the heels of Whakaari/White Island and the Australian fires it seemed like a safe bet – something always crops up that requires us to respond. But I confess that global disruption in the form of Covid-19 was not on my mind at the time. It’s a good reminder that history seldom travels in straight lines. When Covid-19 arrived in New Zealand our initial focus was preserving our ability to operate. We had to adapt to different ways of working to stay in the air and to stay ready. The tasks came soon enough, including Tropical Cyclone Harold while we were still in lockdown. Other tasks followed, within New Zealand and within the region. B Y


“Wherever you were during this remarkable year, and whatever your contribution, I want to thank you for your commitment, leadership and agility.”

But it was Op Protect on the ground that really required us to shift another gear. Few in the RNZAF, when they joined up, would have pictured themselves in the thick of border control and quarantine operations, but hundreds of our people have been doing just that. From multiagency HQs to Managed Isolation Facilities, it’s work that is central to keeping New Zealanders safe. Meanwhile our flying operations continue: Orion surveillance in the North Pacific supporting the UN, resupply operations to Antarctica, helicopters in the South Pacific, search and rescues, agency support, transport and training.

Amidst all of this we made solid progress on major projects: C-130Js now in acquisition, our first P-8 crew qualified in Florida, KA350 capability delivered, and the NH90 simulator assembled and operational. There were plenty more. This year our people really stepped up in the midst of a lot of uncertainty and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. A special thanks goes to our Air Force families for your own resilience and support in difficult conditions, both here and overseas, with and without your loved ones. Let me also acknowledge those team mates who sadly didn’t make it through this year with us – we lost some good friends in 2020 and I will be taking a moment to remember them. Our commitment to Op Protect will continue through the holiday period and into the new year. Thank you to those who have stepped forward. We are prepared to sustain this important operation for as long as it’s needed. Meanwhile we’ll be getting ready for whatever else might happen next, at home or in our region. 2020 threw us a real curve ball. It would be unwise of me to make predictions about 2021, but whatever it brings we have the team to handle it. Thank you to you all and to your families. Merry Christmas.

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Flying supplies to paradise B Y


No. 3 Squadron aircrew has travelled on HMNZS Canterbury to the remote island of Tokelau to deliver muchneeded infrastructure, including water tanks and solar equipment. Pilot, Flight Lieutenant Chris Fon-Lowe gives us an insight into the work they did during the four-week deployment.

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An NH90 dropping off equipment to a sports ground BOTTOM LEFT

An NH90 flying in equipment from HMNZS Canterbury MIDDLE

Personnel from NZ Army’s 5 Movements Company bringing items onto Tokelau TOP RIGHT

An SH-2G(I) Seasprite bringing in a watertank to Tokelau BOTTOM RIGHT

Army personnel unrigging a watertank


ften the first opportunity you have to catch a break on a busy operation is the walk out to the aircraft. I usually like to go out alone – it’s a relaxing time to take a moment and appreciate that you’re about to strap into an $80m helicopter. No such opportunity in Tokelau; it’s early morning, humid, and the temperature is already approaching 30°. The whole crew are overheating and looking for shade before we’ve even put our helmets on. Once the helmets go on and we’re off the ship though, our attention is immediately drawn to the utterly spectacular view of Nukunonu – think turquoise waters, an idyllic coral atoll and clear blue sky. Our first job is to investigate our potential landing sites and drop-off areas. A satellite image is a good start, but there’s no substitution for getting the crew’s eyes on.

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We’re looking for approach directions, prevailing wind, surrounding structures, potential hazards, surface composition, culturally significant sites, machinery equipment available; pretty much everything that is going to be an issue for us, and anything that can help us to achieve our mission. A recce at the start will enable us to effectively execute our plan. Plus, a quick flight around the beautiful inner atoll is a great way to appreciate a part of the world that few people get to experience. As the aircraft approaches the ship’s flight deck, the helicopter loadmaster lowers the strop to hook on the first external load. This will be the primary method of transporting cargo – we suspend a load attached to a hook underneath the aircraft.

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The first load off the deck is a package of books, toys, sports equipment and children’s uniforms. Approaching the island, the kids are running outside and waving, so the crew take that as a sign of their approval. The next 12 loads are all components for solar energy infrastructure. Given the remote nature of the atolls and the favourable weather conditions, solar power is the ideal solution for Tokelau. Everything from glass solar panels to cabling are moved ashore, with loads weighing up to 1,600kg. It’s truly a team effort, with a NZ Army amphibious load team receiving the loads, and providing shore support and liaison. On the radio, RNZN helicopter approach controllers are the voice of HMNZS Canterbury.

That’s the same ship that is pitching and rolling in the sea swell as the crew are trying to uplift the final load of the day from 50ft above the deck. After five hours in the aircraft, the crew retreats to the air conditioning of the ship to start planning for the next day. We’re operating near the edge of the aircraft’s performance envelope, so detailed payload, fuel and environmental calculations are critical.

“It’s immediately apparent that the Tokelauans live in paradise, but an extremely isolated and undeveloped paradise.” – Flight Lieutenant Chris Fon-Lowe

We end the day watching the sun go down from the ship’s upper deck. We reflect on the day and discuss what went well and what we could do better. Ultimately though, everyone is just happy to be doing something meaningful and helping to make other people’s lives better. Operations like this make me realise how privileged we are, and how proud I am to be a New Zealander.

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Orion crew find missing Kiribati boats Aircrew on an Air Force P-3K2 Orion found two boats after they were recently reported missing near Kiribati, with one boat 120 nautical miles away from land.


he two boats, which had been separately reported as missing, were found in quick succession.

Four men were found alive and well, however, the two crew on one of the boats reported another man had died. The joint search and rescue operation was coordinated by the Rescue Coordination Centre Fiji, with the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) also assisting with drift modelling, details of the search area, and communications. Kiribati authorities and the RCCNZ coordinated a vessel to pick up the boaties once they had been located by the Orion. The aircraft remained overhead until the vessel arrived to rescue the four men. The Orion left Base Auckland on November 4 to overnight and refuel in Fiji, so it could begin the search the next day for a 17ft wooden fishing vessel which had gone missing near Kiribati. That vessel had been reported as having gone missing while fishing between Tarawa and Maiana Islands and had last been seen on October 30.

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That night, the Air Force was asked to look for a second boat, also reported missing near Kiribati. On arrival in the search area, the Orion aircrew located the smaller boat first and a short time later located the second boat, the wooden fishing vessel. The smaller aluminium boat was 72 nautical miles west of Tarawa while the wooden fishing vessel was 120 nautical miles away. The aircrew dropped a bag of supplies, including a radio, to the two people on the wooden fishing vessel. Once radio contact had been established, the aircrew learned the third person on that boat had died. Air Component Commander Air Commodore Tim Walshe said the crews on the P-3K2 long-range maritime surveillance aircraft were highly trained in search and rescue operations. “We’re pleased to have located four people alive and well on two small boats that were drifting so far from land. Our thoughts are with the friends and family of the person who tragically lost their life,” he said.

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Rescue training with the searchers B Y


Aircrew from No. 3 Squadron have been training around the country working with outside agencies to perfect their search and rescue skills.


ne of the exercises took place in the dense bush in Te Urewera, north of Wairoa. The team worked alongside Wairoa LandSAR staff and local police to find two trampers “lost” in the bush. Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Lindsay Johnstone said the NH90 provided logistics, moving the search and rescue (SAR) members in and out of the field. “We did a bit of training with them first to familiarise them with working around the helicopter and winching. I guess 60–70% had never been winched before.” The rescue workers trained on being winched into the helicopter before flying out to the search area. “We were winching them into the bush and then they conducted their tasking they had received as part of the SAR scenario.”

“The hills weren’t that high, but they were really quite sheer and had steep ridges, so there was a fair bit of wind funnelling we had to deal with. At times the weather made us work for our money,” he said. The scenario was to track and find two trampers who had been in the bush for a few days. “They figured out where they were and narrowed it down and then managed to find them. We went in and winched a couple of people to them and then we winched the lost party up and then flew the teams back to the base for a debrief,” FLTLT Johnstone said. “There’s the day-to-day training that we’re always doing, but you can’t beat the experience, for the crews, working with actual SAR teams and working with civilians and working in the hills and bush and having big numbers of people to winch in and out.”

“Training alongside the LandSAR team is what it’s all about. We get experience with how they work and they get experience working with us. It sets everyone up in a much better place if they do get a real SAR up there.” – Flight Lieutenant Lindsay Johnstone

The crew was flying in the area of bush east of Lake Waikaremoana.

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Long distance communication

A Communications team from No. 230 Squadron has competed against 119 countries in a friendly competition, using high frequency radio systems in a nontactical environment. Latvia won the event with the Air Force team coming in 80th – but the experience has them hungry to go back next year. Some of the team told Air Force News about the experience. TOP LEFT: AC Ben Coupar communicates with exercise participants from other nations TOP RIGHT: AC Jordan Moeke attaching guy ropes to the top of the 12m antenna mast before raising in order to make it stable

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Flight Lieutenant Jordan Clark – Section Commander Deployable Communciations Section Exercise Noble Skywave is a military-led exercise by the Canadian Armed Forces, Communication and Electronics Branch. Participants from the Five Eyes community and NATO players, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Latvia, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States competed in a friendly competition using High Frequency (HF) radio systems in a non-tactical environment. No. 230 Squadron Communications and Information Systems (CIS) Flight have participated over the past five years, however this year we were the only New Zealand registered team. The exercise is beneficial to our trade because it refreshes our HF operator skills and capabilities, with a focus on long range, strategic communications. It has been a surreal experience for our younger team members to use Long Range HF Antennas and hear operators from as far as Montreal and London. Although our placing this year wasn’t where we would ideally like it to be, the experience we have gained coupled with ongoing HF propagation theory gives us more drive to improve our standings for next year.

Sergeant Malina Opo The overall aim for this exercise was to use HF radios to reach as many stations overseas as possible. For me, this meant it would be a great opportunity to use the frequency prediction and antenna selection skills picked up through previous training and experience. The first day consisted of a refresh on the capabilities of different antennas. Our teams then selected the best antennas for the job which took up quite a lot of real-estate as some were up to 150 metres long.

Corporal Devin Van Der Schyff Our three teams, made up of 15 personnel, set-up multiple long range HF antenna with the goal of achieving two-way communications with other stations around the world for a period of 32 hours. The exercise allowed our CIS technicians to put into practice theory we had learnt throughout our CIS training, by giving us an opportunity to experiment with different antenna configurations to find out what would work. This ultimately allowed us to communicate around the world by establishing loud and clear communications with stations in Australia, the United States and Canada.

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Leading Aircraftman Kieran Martin

Aircraftman Johanna Quinn

During the competition we worked in shifts through the night and gained points for each successful radio call with more points awarded for distance between stations. As we were the only station competing from New Zealand, everyone was eager to talk to us. Despite the first shift for my team starting at 3am, spirits were high as we had stations trying to reach us from multiple different countries including Canada, Latvia, Peru and the United Kingdom. We were constantly having to shift antennas and change frequencies in order to have the best chance of reaching them. Frequency selection was determined through several factors including time of day, location of the station we were trying to reach, and the capabilities of different antennas we had set up. I found it interesting but quite challenging trying to work around the different radio procedures and language barriers that each country presented.

HF propagation becomes more challenging over longer distances as the radio wave is refracted in the ionosphere which reduces the signal amplitude. We precisely engineered our antennas with the appropriate radiation characteristics to target the desired stations, starting with the Net Control Station in Ontario, and then generated frequency predictions to give us the best chance of establishing communications. The Noble Skywave web app gave us an engineering circuit to coordinate radio checks with distant teams, and because the scoring matrix rewards longer distances, as the sole New Zealand team we were a desirable target. As we re-engineered our antennas to target different stations we created a cat’s cradle of wires and masts to maximise the footprint of our antenna farm. Frequency predictions changed progressively as the sun rose and fell and atmospheric conditions changed. Despite (or perhaps because of) the challenges, it was immensely satisfying to finally hear a station in Canada parrot back my loud-clear radio check. Exercise Noble Skywave 2020 was an irreplaceable learning about the capabilities and limitations of HF Skywave propagation for long-range communications.

“In the end we were able to have good communications with multiple different stations in Canada and Hawaii and were even able to reach a station in Alaska. I found it really rewarding to see that our hard work and calculations paid off.” – Leading Aircraftman Kieran Martin

TOP LEFT AND RIGHT: AC Jordan Moeke and AC Ben Coupar lower the antenna mast to conduct maintenance and adjust the antenna wire position to contact a participant from another country

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Specialised training for crisis response B Y


Being ready to move to a crisis situation at a moment’s notice is a primary role for the Special Operations Task Unit for Regional Response. Recently the team has joined forces with NH90 helicopter and C-130 Hercules aircrew to train for that exact scenario.


e need to make sure that we’re at an operational level of capability with short notice to move,” the Task Unit Commander* said. The exercise covered the full spectrum of complex tasks, including a range of infiltration skills, he said. It took place in the Lower North Island, mainly in the Waiouru training area with one operation in the Wairarapa and another in Taupō. “For the C-130 we used it for operators to parachute to a specific landing zone, quietly and stealthily, to do whatever the mission requires. In this case we tried to work them up with Special Operations vehicles on the ground, so it’s a good way to use those assets. “They were to parachute down and link up with the vehicles and then do a resupply immediately afterwards, working with the Army’s 5 Movements’ personnel. Unfortunately the Waiouru weather meant that we were unable to drop at the last moment.”

*Identities not given for security purposes

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The unit was also able to use Taupō’s airfield, where they parachuted onto it from a C-130, cleared the runway, set up communications with the aircraft to let them know they were safe and cleared the aircraft to land, the commander said. “The skills would be used in any crisis response – so a worst-case scenario. We need to make sure we’re ready and have options available across a wide variety of skills and assets.” The scenario the team used was similar to Exercise Southern Katipo-type activities, including insurgent threats and a higher threat environment. There is a high demand on military personnel at the moment with many deployed to Op Protect, so it was excellent we were still able to integrate with the Air Force’s teams and assets at a busy time for Defence, he said. Training with the NH90s was part of the very short-notice direct action type tasks that we might be needed to do, the commander said.

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“Special operations can be fast-paced and the tactical situation can change rapidly. This forces our aircrew to think on their feet and make decisions in the air.” – Air Mission Commander No. 3 Squadron’s Air Mission Commander said their aim was to work on integration between New Zealand Special Operations Forces and Air Force assets. “Most of the flying revolved around low level night formation operations. The exercise required No. 3 Squadron to apply a wide range of skill sets in order to support the missions. For example much of the tactical formation training we did on Exercise Steel Talon was put to good use in this exercise. “The training we do on our routine readiness training activities such as Steel Talon (tactical) and Blackbird (mountain) is what enables us to then deliver the effects required by the ground force on joint exercises and operations.” The skills needed for the type of work special operations forces and direct support elements do, such as rotary aviation, cannot be created after a crisis occurs, so the training meant that when the need arose, they were ready to respond, he said.

The challenges the aircrew faced during the exercise were mostly to do with poor weather that made some of the evolutions difficult. “However we were still able to safely achieve the majority of the training objectives despite the conditions. This is due in part to the capabilities of the NH90 but also the training/experience that No. 3 Squadron aircrew gain in other roles such as search and rescue.” The pace of the exercise was very fast with only minimal turn-around time between missions, the Air Mission Commander said.

“Despite having some fairly advanced hardware in the NH90, the human element is what makes the difference between mission success and failure. Challenging exercises such as this allow us to build up the human element so that the right decisions get made when the pressure is on,” he said. “The safe and effective conduct of special operations depends on Special Operations Forces and its support elements such as No. 3 Squadron training together as a single combined task group rather than separately.”

“The critical enabler for this was the mission support provided by our attached No. 230 Squadron personnel, who put in some big days to make sure the crews had the information we needed to carry out the missions.” The type of training the Special Forces does was by its very nature demanding, but it gave the squadron the opportunity to put a wide range of their skills to the test, he said.

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Airman of the Year Leading Aircraftman Dennis Tommy just wants to get the job done. And by doing just that, to an extraordinary level, he has been named this year’s Airman of the Year.


“It really came in handy when Tropical Cyclone Harold hit and the team was able to get to the islands with everything they needed already there,” he said.

The Airman of the Year is awarded annually to the serviceperson who takes action to make a significant and positive contribution to the RNZAF and NZDF, and who personifies our core values.

Samoan-born, LAC Tommy played an integral part in the establishment of the Base Auckland Pasifika Group, an initiative with a focus on Pasifika welfare, professional development and community engagement.

The No. 40 Squadron logistics specialist was chosen for the top award for his work ethic, initiative and consistent commitment to go above and beyond for the RNZAF and the wider community.

He is also a mentor in the Auckland Pacific community focusing on young people. LAC Tommy is a leader who actively mentors junior personnel in the workplace and in sport.

Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Tommy played a critical role in the Covid-19 pandemic response for the squadron. This involved responding to rapidly evolving medical regulations and initiating procedures to procure and manage personal protective equipment across No. 40 Squadron including aircrew, squadron maintenance teams and all associated aeronautical workshops.

“My parents are Samoan and I was born in Samoa. We came to New Zealand when I was really young, so I was able to take advantage of the education system out here that my parents wanted.

’m really honoured and really humbled to get the award. Recognition isn’t really what I’m after though. I just see something that needs to be done and I do it.”

He also created bio-hazard cleaning packs to be held on the aircraft. These efforts were crucial to ensuring aircrews remained at the ready to safely respond during the pandemic response. The timing of the virus outbreak in New Zealand coincided with LAC Tommy’s work in arranging provisions for the squadron to deploy to the Middle East. “We were just a couple of days before going when the trip was cancelled. So I was able to get in touch with all the distributers I had just been in touch with and get extra provisions for the squadron so they could carry on with work during the lockdown period.

“It’s really important that more Pasifika people join the military because we bring a different perspective and also our culture to the work. I believe that diversity makes for a stronger military,” LAC Tommy said. “I enjoy boosting the Pasifika culture in the military because there aren’t many of us, so I think it helps the Pacific people who are here.” LAC Tommy is an excellent ambassador and outstanding role model who has personified the NZDF ethos and values to the highest standard. His work ethic and consistent commitment to go above and beyond is second to none. Congratulations Dennis.

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A Year Like No Other

It has been an unprecedented year with a deadly pandemic relentlessly spreading around the world. Covid-19 changed life for everyone as we all adapted how we lived and worked to try to halt the steady spread of the virus. The Air Force was no exception and exercises and operations were disrupted. However, processes were introduced so critical operations could continue and personnel stepped up to be part of the deployment to help protect the country’s borders. We take a look back at a most unusual year.

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F E AT U R E   |

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F E AT U R E   |

1. An NH90 came to the rescue of 20 residents and their carers from a Wyndham rest home after major flooding stranded them. Among the passengers was a 102-year-old man, believed to be the oldest to ever fly in a No. 3 Squadron helicopter. 2. The Air Force sent firefighters, air and ground crews, three NH90 helicopters, a Boeing 757 and a C-130 Hercules to Australia in response to massive bush fires that destroyed millions of hectares of land across the country’s dry plains.


3. A C-130 Hercules delivered tonnes of aid to Pacific islands suffering widespread devastation from Tropical Cyclone Harold. The aircraft was also able to return dozens of people to New Zealand, who had been stranded in the islands because of Covid-19 travel restrictions. 4. The crew of a P-3K2 Orion responded to a distress message on maritime radio that an outriggertype canoe had broken up near Whangarei Heads and a man was in the water. The aircraft arrived within 10 minutes and located the man. The crew relayed the man’s position and stayed until he was safely picked up by a nearby vessel. 5. When New Zealand went into Alert Level 4 in March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, bases implemented safety measures for residents and essential workers, personnel were seconded to All-ofGovernment teams and processes were put in place so essential work and training could continue. 6. No. 3 Squadron crews trained to be qualified in tactical battlefield operations. The training means aircrews will be set to deploy quickly to any theatre to support domestic, regional and global security situations. 7. The crew of the NH90 helicopter was involved in the successful search for Jessica O’Connor and Dion Reynolds in the Kahurangi National Park after they had been missing for 18 days. The NZDF supported the NZ Police and LandSAR for a week in the search for the two missing trampers before their rescue.

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F E AT U R E   |

14 8. An NH90 and Seasprite joined forces to transport 50 tonnes of locally sourced shell and other materials to breeding sites for the construction of man-made breeding houses for the critically endangered fairy tern/tara iti at Kaipara Harbour on Defence Force land.

11. The Air Force and Navy joined forces in an exercise around Auckland encompassing maritime warfare and search and rescue training. A major component of the training was centred on maritime warfare, including anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.

9. The Air Force has deployed personnel around the country in support of the Government’s Covid-19 response. They have been sent to Managed Isolation Quarantine Facilities, maritime borders, road check points and Covid-19 response headquarters. The personnel helped make up the largest single military contingent deployment since Timor-Leste.

12. The New Zealand Defence Force deployed a P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea. The sanctions resolutions are intended to persuade North Korea to denuclearise and abandon its ballistic missile capabilities.

10. The No. 5 Squadron aircrew training to be the country’s first P-8A Poseidon instructors have passed their first milestone by graduating from Florida’s Patrol Squadron (VP) 30’s P-8A Category II Syllabus, transitioning from the P-3K2 Orion to the P-8A. The team will stay in the United States until the aircraft are delivered to New Zealand in 2023.

13. The King Air crew played a key role alongside rescue organisations during a search and rescue mission, responding to an emergency beacon set off by a brother and sister, who were left floating in a life raft after their 29 foot launch sank. A TECT Rescue Helicopter identified the raft location after the survivors set off a flare, and the King Air maintained over-watch until Coastguard Auckland arrived to rescue them. 14. No. 3 Squadron’s new NH90 simulator has been installed and is in use at Base Ohakea, negating the need for training to take place overseas. Installing the $42 million simulator in its 12m tall bespoke building started in April by the New Zealand branch of Canadian company CAE, plus two Air Force avionics technicians.

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Memories from the Whakaari/ White Island tragedy

On Monday, December 9, 2019 Whakaari/White Island erupted, releasing steam and volcanic gases into the air and launching rock and ash onto the island. At the time, 47 tourists were visiting the volcano. The explosion killed 21 people, including two who are missing and have been declared dead.

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Aircrew from No.3 Squadron were involved in the tragic recovery mission. NH90 pilot, Flight Lieutenant Hamish Reichardt tells us his memories a year on from the disaster. I was driving back to Ohakea from an appointment at Linton when I heard the news. I wasn’t involved in the initial response of transferring patients to hospital. My involvement started two days later when the Commanding Officer asked me to go up as the Air Liaison Officer to the DJIATF (Deployable Joint Inter-Agency Task Force). We started forming a crew to assist with the body recovery and landed in Whakatane on Thursday afternoon. When we arrived, we went to the Whakatane Council building and talked through a plan with NZ Police, the Maritime Liaison Officer and Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.

We are trained to deal with the unexpected and we had the flying skills as well as the ability to work as a crew to effect the necessary transfer. I was the Air Liaison Officer during the Kaikoura Earthquake response, so I have had some experience working in an Emergency Operations Centre. It was good to see familiar faces from the Fire Service and Police when we walked in Thursday evening. On the morning of the mission the weather was nice with the wind having changed to a westerly, which meant that the volcanic steam/gas was being blown down our access route to the extraction point. By mid-morning there had been a slight shift to a south westerly direction meaning we had a clear run to the extraction point in between the regular 5–7 minute venting. The downside was this then left us with a bit of down drafting air and turbulence to complete the job.


We were watching the vent to make sure no major event occurred whilst we were in the crater. Other than that, we remained clear of the volcano minimising our exposure. We had been given advice from the defence Medical Officer present and been briefed by volcanologists on the signs and risks involved. We didn’t expect the regular big venting to occur, but rather expected a constant smaller venting process. This meant we had to think on our feet when we got there to come up with a plan. We had 2–3 minutes at a time to get into the extraction point and out again before we would be engulfed in cloud again. Apart from the hazardous gases the cloud contained, this would have meant a loss of hover reference with the ground allowing a dangerous flight regime to develop very quickly.

Another challenge was operating with HMNZS Wellington, something I hadn’t done before. While I have operated with HMNZS Canterbury, the smaller Offshore Patrol Vessel presented its own challenges. The view from the pilot’s seat to beneath the aircraft is poor, meaning the hover references were not as easy to come by whilst over the ship. We were aware of how close we were flying to an active volcano and we took measures to ensure we were safe and could focus on the job at hand. Following the recovery mission to HMNZS Wellington, we were also tasked with transferring the bodies to Whenuapai that afternoon.

“I think the crew felt a massive sense of relief and pride knowing that we had conducted our part of the operation as safely and efficiently as we could. After what had been about a 24-hour build up we were happy that part was over.”

It is definitely a memorable experience and one that has stayed with me during the year. I am proud to have been involved, doing my part to assist with getting the deceased back to their loved ones.

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Staying safe while training abroad B Y


International travel has stopped for most of us, but vital training for some of our squadrons needs to continue, regardless of which country it takes place in. Recently, personnel from No. 40 and No. 42 Squadrons travelled to the United States – a Covid-19 hotspot – for simulator training, so stringent safety measures were implemented to ensure their safety.


ing Air conversion pilot Flying Officer (FGOFF) Angus Knox and four others from No. 42 Squadron flew to Wichita, Kansas for simulator training on emergency procedures. It was necessary training so the pilots could fly King Airs independently and contribute more to taskings. “We were, as much as we could, isolated in our accommodation,” he said. The team were in two-person apartments where they could cook their own meals and socialise in their own bubble. “We were able to go to the supermarket, occasionally as we needed, but we wore masks, gloves, the whole nine yards for any trips into public. But mostly, we minimised time outdoors. “We could go out for an hour each day for exercise. There was a river and wide walking trails nearby, which meant we could see a little bit of the local area without getting in close contact with anyone.” Coming back on Air NZ and staying in the Managed Isolation Facility (MIF) in Christchurch was a really positive experience, FGOFF Knox said.

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“Air NZ made sure there was social distancing, which the American flights didn’t have. The MIF was Army-run and the service was excellent and they made the two weeks as painless as it could be.” The training was conducted in Miami, Florida for the Boeing crews and in Tampa, Florida for the C-130 Hercules crews. Boeing 757 pilot Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Dan Walker said it was conducted in Full Flight Simulators and involved practicing emergency procedures such as rejected take-offs, engine failures during take-off, engine fires and several other malfunction scenarios. “Simulator training is a core currency that we must conduct on a regular basis to maintain our ability to fly the aircraft safely,” he said. The crews took Covid precautions seriously while they were there, including the strict use of PPE and limiting their time outside to essential movements only. “We ensured that masks were worn anytime we were outside of our hotel rooms and frequently sanitised or washed hands after touching surfaces.” Air Force Flight Safety Officer Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Freddy Ferris said a lot of effort and stringent procedures were implemented that had to be followed to the letter of the law.


“It highlights how important our job is – the government still wants us to go to do our primary job and if there is a way through the health risk, then we manage it. “The Defence Force has to think about a way to travel safely because at times that is what will be asked of us, and there may be no alternative.” Senior Force Health Protection Officer (Air) SQNLDR Tim Hopkins said before the crews left for the training, he and others studied the areas they were visiting to see what the practical risk prevention measures were that they may require. “It’s a team effort across Joint HQ, also taking in the Joint Air Operations Centre team and Joint Health. We give advice on Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and quality of accommodation along with other local public health Covid travel risks. “Our PPE advice is adjusted depending on the destination, so although in New Zealand we’re pretty comfortable with a low level of PPE in public because of the low disease risk, for the teams who recently went to the States, we advised they have PPE more in line with what is worn in hospitals, which is better quality.”

Officer Commanding of the Aviation Medicine Unit, SQNLDR Gus Cabre, highlighted how it was extremely important that risk assessment and management procedures were correct because “the Air Force has a mandate not to export nor bring back Covid into the country”. “So, in the United States of America, where the virus was rife, there was a much higher risk to our crews. Because of this, the most stringent of our Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) had to be adhered to rigorously, including wearing the higher-rated PPE – like the N95 masks – transport exclusively for them to and from accommodation and agreed international regulations of disinfection and cleanliness of everywhere they went, including the simulator.

“Defence has a risk management plan that looks at the risk issues around the travel and that is designed to keep our people in good health.” – Squadron Leader Tim Hopkins

“Nevertheless, because of the high risk factors, this still meant that when they arrived back in New Zealand, despite following tight SOPs, they would still have to spend time in a MIF,” SQNLDR Cabre said.

PHOTO: Tracy Sexton

AIR FORCE NEWS #231  | 25


Training the Airmen of the Force B Y


The responsibility of teaching new recruits for the Air Force is one that instructors at Command Recruit Training Squadron (CRTS) at Base Woodbourne don’t take lightly.


very person who joins the Air Force spends their first few months at Base Woodbourne. The sign at the front of Base tells everyone that “The Air Force Starts Here” – and it does. Corporal (CPL) Bree Davies said being a recruit instructor gives you an opportunity to challenge yourself. “It is a good chance to expand your management, teamwork and leadership skills because you are constantly working with others. “The benefit to this role is that you will have a lot more in your toolbox to take back to your trade.”

PHOTOS: CRTS Instructor SGT Paddy Stephens directs the recruits of R2/20 at West Melton rifle range

To learn more about a position or a Tour of Duty to CRTS at Base Woodbourne contact CRTS.

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The most rewarding part of the job as an instructor was seeing the recruits develop from day one to graduation, CPL Davies said.

“Everyone goes through some form of change on course, and seeing people go through the comfort zone to the stretch zone, and back into the comfort zone is satisfying as an instructor because you know the impact you have had. “I can hand-on-heart say that being in this job I have worked with an amazing team and have the most satisfaction I’ve had within a workplace,” she said. CPL Davies said that being at CRTS for one course on a tour of duty, or a full posting is worth it. “Recruit course is just the first step of their journey to becoming an airman. It is a privilege to be a part of this phase of their careers and seeing the potential they all have, and their ability to grow into it,” she said.


Sergeant (SGT) Paddy Stephens has spent almost 22 years in uniform, with the British Forces (Royal Navy), and with the NZDF in all three services, said his job at CRTS has been one of the best. “I have been afforded some fantastic opportunities in my time in uniform, one of them has been as an RNZAF instructor at Base Woodbourne.” He said his job in military induction training at CRTS provides many different challenges and is extremely diverse. “This job presents many different and exciting challenges such as leadership development, command meetings, taking part and organising major exercises, managing course progress and coaching recruits and instructors.

CRTS is a place where, while teaching others in turn, you also learn more, he said. “This type of job is not just for one type of person, in fact, the more diversity we have in our staff the better it is for the future of the RNZAF. “I implore people to take the opportunity to look into working in an environment that not only produces future leaders of the RNZAF but allows you to meet some fantastic people, people you will have a bond with for the rest of your career and beyond.” The opportunity to help influence and shape the future of the Air Force is not a chance many get in their careers, SGT Stephens said.

“To coach, mentor and develop someone on their pathway to becoming an airman is a fantastic part of the job as you are directly involved in helping them achieve their dream, you are directly involved in shaping the future of the RNZAF.” – Sergeant Paddy Stephens

“Due to the diversity of the job we also get to meet and work alongside some really interesting people through permanent posting or even tour of duties, even in my short time here I feel like I have met half the NZDF,” said SGT Stephens.

AIR FORCE NEWS #231  | 27


A career built from culture and family Flying Officer Shirley Barakuta was recently given the honour of raising the Fijian flag in New Zealand to mark the nation’s golden anniversary of independence from Britain. She tells Air Force News the importance her culture has on her career and how the two have intertwined.


orn and raised in Lautoka City, surrounded by family is what I miss the most about Fiji. Everything that I am today and have accomplished, is because of my family. My mother’s family are from Rewa and Savusavu. My biological father from Vatulele and my father who raised me, is from Australia. I have a younger brother and we grew up with our cousins who I regard as siblings. My Fijian culture is not traditional (being brought up as a ‘Kailoma’) but is very family orientated. When I first moved to New Zealand, being away from my loved ones back in Fiji was very hard. After finishing University study I decided to chase my dream of joining the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The first month of joining the Air Force was an emotional struggle for me as I had never been away from all my family members for any amount of time. On 19 January, 2015, I sat in a room filled with 48 people who made up the R1/15 recruit family and on 24 April 2015, I joined the New Zealand Defence Force family. I have met so many people from all walks of life and am truly blessed in everything that I have achieved thanks to my career in the Air Force.

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My two cultures over my short career have intertwined and I am very grateful for all the experiences where my military service involves my beloved island nation. The support from my command chains have enabled me to represent the Air Force in Fiji to unveil a monument at the old Air Force Base Laucala Bay (pronounced ‘Lauthala’) and recently represented it in raising the Fiji flag for Fiji day celebrations in Russell marking 50 years of Independence for Fiji from Great Britain. Family is everything to me, they motivate me and is the ‘why’ behind my passion to continue to serve. There are bad days and good days but with the support of those in my family, I am ready for whatever the future brings.

I N N O VAT I O N   |

R N Z A F 20 Innovation Challenge 2 1 A

D R A G O N S ’




From November until 24 March 2021, the Chief of Air Force will be sponsoring the second RNZAF Innovation Challenge, culminating in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ type event in May. The purpose of this challenge is to promote innovation and identify the people and ideas in which the Air Force can invest. The creativity of our personnel is one of the most important resources we have in the development of ground breaking ideas. The challenge is an opportunity for RNZAF personnel to present a range of unique, innovative ideas and emerging technologies not currently operational or in development. It celebrates day-to-day Kiwi ingenuity and rewards innovative ideas generated by NZDF personnel for the benefit of the RNZAF and its people.

Innovators are encouraged to be bold, with ideas being:

The Challenge

Successful submitters will then present their idea to a different panel of judges in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style competition. There may well be one or more innovative idea from each theme who will be invited to Wellington to present to the panel, who will then decide the overall RNZAF Innovation Challenge Champion. There will also be a separate award for the best innovation in the Sustainability themed category.

There will be five themes all linked to Air strategy in order to help stimulate and promote the growth of an innovation culture within the RNZAF. • Sustainability & the Environment; • Operating; • Technical (including Engineering, Maintenance, Logistics, and Supply); • People & Culture (including Welfare, Wellbeing, Health & Fitness and Sport); and • Miscellaneous (any idea not captured by one of the above themes). Uniformed and civilian personnel are now invited to submit their thoughts and ideas for initial consideration by a diverse panel of innovation stakeholders selected from Air Staff, the Defence Innovation Centre of Excellence, Capability Branch and from across RNZAF bases and units.

• new to Defence; • not based on ideas already designated as current or future defence capabilities; • judged on merit; and • pre-vetted to identify the top innovative ideas for 2021.

It’s over to presenters how they make their pitch to the panel. Be creative! An information pack to leave with the panel is the minimum requirement. Mentoring, including presentation training and advice and guidance on how to ‘market and sell’ your idea will be provided to those who make it through to Wellington.

Judging Each idea will be evaluated by how their idea would provide benefit to the Air Force. Submitted innovation ideas should aim to meet one, or more, of the following implementing criteria: • solves an urgent operational requirement; • enhances existing or develops new capability; • improves health and safety; • reduces waste and promotes efficiency (time/cost); and • improves morale and the wellbeing of Defence personnel. Innovation entry forms, templates and points of contact are available at Year 2021: Air Force Innovation Challenge, RNZAF Innovation Challenge 2021 (RIC21) DDMS. All submitted ideas will be added to the Air Force Innovation website for possible future implementation: Air Force Innovation (Defence Excellence). There is no minimum or maximum number of ‘winners’. Successful ideas will be supported by the Chief of Air Force to further develop and implement their proposal – you keep control of your idea. For example, support might include seed-funding, approved duty time, mentoring, or cross-Air or NZDF support. Make your pitch – what do you need for your idea to succeed? AIR FORCE NEWS #231  | 29


Recruits restore war graves in Omaka B Y


Recruits from Base Woodbourne have been working hard to restore war grave plaques at Omaka Cemetery in Marlborough.


light Lieutenant Emma Jones from Command and Recruit Training Squadron said the recruits were honoured to assist with the restoration project. “Helping out the Marlborough Returned and Services Association has been a real privilege for us. “There is a strong Air Force connection with Omaka and we are always happy to help the local community we live and work in. “The restoration on the graves is a big job but we are committed to helping get it completed and continuing the good work previous courses have done before,” she said. Restoration of bronze grave plaques, like the ones at Omaka, is complex and involves a 12-step process including scrubbing, sanding, dying the surface, bronzing and waxing the plaques. The recruits restored 175 plaques while there. The ongoing project with the Marlborough RSA aims to restore more than 400 World War II graves at the cemetery. Recruits from Woodbourne have been helping with this project for two years. 30 |  AIR FORCE NEWS #231



Navigating out of the military

ll military personnel, regardless of rank or length of service, have the opportunity to work with an NZDF Career Transition Coach to support and prepare them to navigate the move to civilian life.

With a tight job market predicted, now more than ever, it is vital to actively prepare to put your best foot forward when the time comes to make the move from military to civilian work.

They offer confidential and impartial 1:1 coaching and a series of workshops, webinars and seminars, covering topics such as wellbeing during transition, strategic job search, effective CV writing and interview techniques. The team recommends a multi-faceted approach over at least an 18 month period to build civilian employability and secure your future. Former Warrant Officer Leigh Gurney who recently moved on from the Air Force after more than 30 years can attest to the advantages of connecting with a Transition Coach. “The Transition Coach was great in providing advice on the outside job market, CV assistance and providing advice about what I wanted to do with my resettlement. Having someone there who you could talk to about the transition out of the military was very reassuring, also that I can talk to her for 12 months after I have resigned.”

To find your local transition coach or for any further information, contact transitionunit@nzdf.mil.nz.

Leigh first engaged with her local Career Transition Coach with the idea of structuring her resettlement leave around a trio of volunteering opportunities.

Leigh saw that volunteering was a chance to make a valued social contribution and dip her toe in to learn about more organisations external to NZDF. In a tight job market reaching out to new and existing connections is an effective job seeking tool. The people you meet volunteering are likely to let you know about unadvertised opportunities, they can act as referees and open the door in other industries. “The contacts you make through volunteering can lead to full time employment,” she said. Getting outside a work comfort zone with a volunteer role can help build confidence, sector specific skills, and demonstrate adaptability and perseverance to potential employers. Once Leigh had completed her Resettlement Leave she caught up with her local career transition coach again to discuss her CV. She integrated her volunteer experience and ensured she had her bases covered for future applications. They also discussed the other support networks that were available.

ABOVE: Leigh Gurney at Dress for Success where she volunteers

AIR FORCE NEWS #231  | 31


Flying high, above and through the water Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Patrick Haybittle is keen to get to sea to help his helicopters fly, but as well as being a high-flyer above the waves, he may also be winging his way towards the Olympics in an emerging sport.


he 22-year-old is an avionics technician at No. 6 Squadron at Base Auckland, working on the SH-2G(I) helicopters. “I joined knowing I would be getting leading class training and great experience working on aircraft,” he said. “My father and great-grandad both served in the Air Force and always had great stories. Grandad was a pilot instructor during World War II and dad was an aircraft mechanic for eight years.” His sister is Pilot Officer Carmen Haybittle, who is training to be a pilot with the RNZAF. “I was already thinking about electrical work and so it made sense for me to have a crack at avionics.” The highlight of his military career so far has been three weeks aboard the Offshore Patrol Vessel HMNZS Wellington, maintaining the Seasprite as the ship carried out fishing and immigration surveillance off the West Coast of the South Island. And he wants to do more of that, but he also has one eye on the 2024 Paris Olympics.

PHOTO: Adam Mustill

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“I’ve been windsurfing for about seven years and recently made the jump to foiling windsurfing,” he said.

Like the progression of America’s Cup sailing, foil windsurfing is essentially windsurfing with a hydrofoil lifting the board above the waves. They can reach speeds in excess of 30 knots. “The Defence Force is very supportive in allowing me time to train and compete, as well as time to work out during the week.” He believes the Defence Force is a great place to learn a high-tech trade, and anyone who is thinking of joining should give it a shot. “Why not consider working on aircraft? They have a lot of awesome systems to work on. The Defence Force is also a great place for life experience and comes with all the extras that come with being part of the military.”

“I am now in a development squad that is targeting the 2024 Olympics. It is great to still be able to pursue my passion.” – Leading Aircraftman Patrick Haybittle

N O T I C E S  |



No. 41 Squadron RNZAF

50th Reunion (Covid-19 delayed) for 27th Intake RNZAF Airman Cadets.

All ex-41 and 141 members are recalled to Auckland…Reunion 2021, March 28-30. All former serving personnel are advised to contact and re-join the Squadron Association soonest. Applications for reinstatement and information to gain access to the next reunion to be held at the Swansea NZRSA, Auckland. This maybe your last chance. Contacts below: Bryan Franklin: bryan.s@franklins.net.nz 0274 776 712 Des Budd: des.glen@xtra.co.nz 0274 044 656 Alan Chung: alanchung42@gmail.com 0210 874 210


We are planning a get together in Blenheim on the weekend of February 19-21, 2021 February 19 Dinner at RNZAF Base Woodbourne February 20 Gather at the Clubs of Marlborough  Visit to Omaka and/or vineyards  Dinner and refreshments February 21 Visit to RNZAF Base Woodbourne Invitation is extended to any Staff from 1970 also. Contact Brian Graham (Guntha) at: briangraham222@gmail.com 

60th Reunion for 17 Course RNZAF Boy Entrants The anniversary will fall in January 2021. If any K, J and L Flights are interested in joining M Flight in celebrating this occasion in February 2021 at the Marlbourough Club Blenheim and Base Woodbourne, contact Ralph Brunsdon at randbbrunsdon@gmail.com.

SUMMER RESERVE INTERN SCHEME Each year Defence Reserves, Youth and Sports organises and funds the Summer Reserve Intern Scheme during the period November to February. The internship is an opportunity for junior members of the Reserve Forces to support projects and initiatives within the NZDF. For more info please contact reserves@nzdf.mil.nz

BODYBUILDING COMPETITION The New Zealand Defence Force in association with ICN New Zealand Presents: The Armed Forces and Emergency Services Bodybuilding and Fitness Competition 2021. For details and registration of interest please email: BBComp@nzdf.mil.nz. In support of Te Kiwi Maia – The Courageous Kiwi www.tekiwimaia.co.nz


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It was a real privilege to have been able to deploy with HMNZS Canterbury to Tokelau this year, delivering crucial infrastructure supplies. With Covid-19 precautions carefully in place, it was a special opportunity just to be able to stand on shore and capture our team at work internationally. My favourite thing about the islands was how bright the colours were. Every moment looked straight out of a postcard, making it easy to capture the NH90 in action as it offloaded supplies and prepared to return to the ship.

AIR FORCE NEWS #231  | 35

With thanks to No.5 Squadron





















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Profile for New Zealand Defence Force

Royal New Zealand Air Force | Air Force News - Issue 231, December 2020  

Air Force News is a monthly magazine that strives to inform its readers about the latest news from the Royal New Zealand Air Force. It cover...

Royal New Zealand Air Force | Air Force News - Issue 231, December 2020  

Air Force News is a monthly magazine that strives to inform its readers about the latest news from the Royal New Zealand Air Force. It cover...