Stormy skies slow but don't halt Air Force alpine flying

No 3 Squadron Iroquois helicopter operating at extreme altitudes.

Caption for images: 20110705_OH_K1028063_0034.jpg  No 3 Squadron Iroquois helicopter operating at extreme altitudes.

15 July 2011

The combination of turbulence, gale force winds and heavy snow put a temporary freeze on mountain flying but that didn’t dampen the spirits of personnel from No 3 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force during Exercise Blackbird 2011. 

Based at Ohakea Air Force Base near Palmerston North, No 3 Squadron deployed four Iroquois helicopters and over 70 personnel to RNZAF Camp Dip Flat in the Nelson Lakes area and this weekend marks the end of a cold but productive two week exercise.

Exercise Blackbird 2011 is an annual exercise designed to enhance the alpine mountain flying skills of our aircrew in addition to developing the way our maintenance and support crews operate in cold weather environments. These skills are vital for search and rescue operations and overseas deployments.

No 3 Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Shaun Clark said that mountain flying is a challenge at the best of times but the past week has tested our crews to their limits. 

“The recent bad weather across the country has meant we didn’t complete as much flying as we would have liked to during the Exercise. However we still achieved the bulk of our exercise objectives and gained valuable experience operating in cold and demanding weather conditions. The Exercise also allows us to practice deploying a detachment of the Squadron which is able to operate from remote locations. This practice is invaluable and allows us to mobilise and deploy overseas quickly.  


For further information please contact Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki, Senior Media Adviser Air Force 04 496 0294 or 021 420 899

Background Notes

·        Number 3 Squadron is based at RNZAF Base Ohakea and operates 13 UH-1H Iroquois and 5 Bell-47 Sioux (Phased out) and 5 x Augusta 109 helicopters.

The Squadron provides:

·        Operational support and training for the NZ Army, specifically in tactical air transport, special operations and aero medical evacuation. 

·        Helicopter conversion (Sioux) and operational conversion (Iroquois) training for pilots and helicopter crewmen.

·        Search and rescue, medical evacuation, NZ Police support, and assistance to other Government agencies

·        VIP transport 
 Currently 688 New Zealand Defence Force personnel are deployed on 19 operations, UN missions and defence exercises in 10 countries around the world.


This page was last reviewed on 15 July 2011.