Trainee pilot Paul Robinson is enjoying the challenge of flying the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s new T-6C Texan II planes.
11 April 2017
Royal New Zealand Air Force trainee pilot Paul Robinson’s patience has been rewarded as he takes to the skies most days in the force’s new T-6C Texan II aircraft.
Pilot Officer Robinson, 32, from the Glen Murray region in Waikato, joined the Air Force in 2003 but didn’t qualify initially for pilot training, so settled in as an aircraft technician. He pursued that career until 2013, when he successfully reapplied to be a trainee pilot.
Four years later and he has just completed Exercise Wiseowl at Base Woodbourne, near Blenheim, where he spent two weeks learning formation flying in the Texans with nine other trainee pilots from 14 Squadron.
“To be able to fly only a few metres from your colleagues while performing complicated manoeuvres was very exciting and a big challenge,” he said.
The planes are purpose-built for military pilot training and have the latest technology, including ejection seats, collision-avoidance and ground awareness warning systems, a pressurised cockpit and personal locator beacons for each pilot.
They are allowing this latest batch of trainee pilots to go higher, further and faster than their predecessors.
A military career was always on the cards for Robinson.
“My older brother was in the Army so I grew up with exciting stories about what he was getting up to in terms of deployments and exercises,” he said.
That brother is now a Lieutenant Colonel based in Canberra but the Air Force was always the likely destination for his younger sibling.
“I joined the Air Force because I was passionate about aviation,” Robinson said.
While serving as an aircraft technician Robinson was sent overseas four times. The first was a deployment to Afghanistan, to maintain the RNZAF’s C-130 Hercules.
“Our role was to support the deployment/redeployment of the reconstruction team in Bamiyan. It was great to be able to help keep the C-130 flying to allow those personnel to get back home to their families after a six-month rotation.”
There were also two military exercises, where Robinson was involved again in maintaining the C-130 Hercules. The first was Green Flag, in Little Rock, Arkansas, which featured coalition partners the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom and involved the Hercules moving troops and equipment in a simulated conflict. The second, Maple Flag in Cold Lake, Canada, was another simulated combat environment, focused mostly on jet fighters.
He was also part of a team sent to maintain the Hercules as it flew in supplies and evacuated civilians from areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan in Cebu, the Philippines, in 2013.
However, the undoubted highlight of his career so far has been in the air – flying solo for the first time in the Texan.
“To be able to achieve that childhood dream of achieving that milestone was a very special feeling,” he said.
“I was excited, nervous and proud all at the same time.”
He has no hesitation recommending a career with the New Zealand Defence Force, for a number of reasons.
“You get world-class training, the chance to make friendships that will last a lifetime and have a job that provides tangible benefits to the people of New Zealand.
“The RNZAF is also fully supportive if I have to take time to look after the needs of my young family.”