The Royal New Zealand Air Force will take to Hawke's Bay skies today as the annual Exercise Skytrain begins day one of its 12-day training camp.

Hawke's Bay landscape will provide the backdrop for a number of simulated exercises that mimic real-life deployments that occur in times of disaster.

The success of past deployments, such as for the Christchurch earthquake and the recent Philippines tsunami, rely on this type of training.

About 150 personnel had been deployed to Hawke's Bay Airport for the camp, including an Army contingent of chefs who would provide daily meals.


Aircraft mechanics, safety technicians, communication specialists, medics and force protection would band together and pull the exercises together throughout the camp.

Landing aircraft medic Kim Gilbert said she was happy to come back to the place where she grew up to participate in the camp.

Ms Gilbert is now based in Ohakea near Palmerston North, and this would be her first Skytrain since she joined the air force. "Just to see how these things are run and meet new people, and do a bit more training while we're here.

"I love it, there's always something different to do."

There is no air force base in Hawke's Bay and Jody Toa Toa, also originally from Hawke's Bay, said a goal was to learn new skills in a different environment "so we know what we can do".

This year the French Air Force, based in New Caledonia, was invited and it would bring its Casa CN-235 transport aircraft.

A range of exercises would fill the 12 days, from setting up tents to parachute drops and even night exercises where crews would use their night-vision goggles technology.

A spokesman said they tried to make the whole camp similar to what would be experienced if they were to be deployed overseas. This included working away from the comfort of an air force base and having to deal with IT in the field, as well as different living conditions.

The air force will be hosting an open day on January 23 for the public.

Two of the air force's new NH90 helicopters from Ohakea are also likely to be on the ground for the open day.

Up to six operational flights would operate each day but would be worked around commercial flights to prevent disruptions.