4 October 2019
Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) pilot trainees have been putting their skills to the test in the southern skies, conducting flights out of Dunedin International Airport for the past two weeks.
Nine pilot trainees, 10 instructors and more than 25 supporting personnel were involved in this year’s Exercise Wise Owl, a pilot-training exercise focussing on formation flying in the T-6C Texan II aircraft.
Squadron Leader Gareth Russell, the Commanding Officer of No. 14 Squadron, said the exercise provided valuable experience in operating out of an unfamiliar environment and in new airspace.
“We take the trainees away from their comfort zone at Base Ohakea in Manawatu to somewhere where they have to adapt to a whole new set of procedures,” he said.
The weather in Otago provided a number of challenges, with rain, wind and ice, which Squadron Leader Russell said was beneficial for the pilots trainees.
“They wouldn’t necessarily have to consider these aspects in their day-to-day flights at Ohakea, which has broadened their experience of how to operate safely in a different environment.”
Course Commander Flight Lieutenant Nathan Round said 14 formation flights were scheduled across the exercise, involving an instructor and trainee flying in each aircraft. On the 10th formation flight the trainees fly solo, an important milestone in their training.
“It’s a real highlight for them,” Flight Lieutenant Round said. “It helps develop confidence in their training.”
One of the pilot trainees, Pilot Officer Brendan Sambrook, said his solo formation flight was his most enjoyable so far.
“It’s awesome to be able to apply the skills we’ve learnt, operating alone in the aircraft,” he said.
The pilot trainees and instructors flew over Dunedin, Balclutha, Alexandra, Timaru, Oamaru, Te Anau, Manapouri, the Catlins, and Invercargill.
The trainees aim to graduate from their Wings course by the end of the year, and will go on to fly either the A109 helicopters or the King Air 350 aircraft.