23 October 2013
The NZ Defence Force today completed phase one of Solid Energy’s programme to re-enter Pike River mine.
The five-day operation at Pike River on the South Island’s West Coast saw a combined Defence Force team of 21 Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) personnel and 12 specialist NZ Army personnel deploy in support of the mission.
Using one of the RNZAF’s new NH90s, the team removed 18 loads involving 35 tonnes of debris from the mine’s ventilation shaft.
Squadron Leader Anna Shaw, acting commanding officer of the Helicopter Transition Unit says that aside from one day of rain, the complex operation went without a hitch.
“We were unable to fly operations on Tuesday because of the weather in the area, but this allowed our crews to break from their hard work and conduct a debrief of the operation with Solid Energy.
“The NH90 performed exceptionally well during its first operational tasking and the flexibility and skills of the Army crews at both ends certainly allowed the operation to go as well as it did.”
One of the NZ Army Movement Operators at the ventilation shaft rigging the loads, LCPL Zeke Lytollis says that the operation was an excellent test of skills.
“Some of the loads we were removing were far from conventional and at the upper end of our weight limits. When we’re rigging the loads we have to look at the complete method of flight and make sure that what we put under the helicopter doesn’t move or put too much stress on the key elements.”
“It’s one thing doing this kind of work from flat ground during training, but when you’re on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, it really puts our skills to the test,” he says.
Some of the individual loads that were removed were up to three tonnes - twice the weight that civilian helicopters available to Solid Energy were able to remove.
For more information, contact Defence Communications Group on 021 487 980.
By the numbers:
Total Personnel: 33
RNZAF Personnel: 21
NZ Army Personnel: 12
NZDF Helicopter: One NH90
Loads removed: 18
Weight of Loads Removed: 35 tonnes
Distance each load flown: 7 Kilometres
Hours Flown: 15 hours