Damp affects air force

By Roger Moroney

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RNZAF 5 movements company aerial delivery riggers (from left) Private Josh Davies, Private Blaise Smith, Private Thomas Oughton check over a parachute and payload. Photo/Warren Buckland
RNZAF 5 movements company aerial delivery riggers (from left) Private Josh Davies, Private Blaise Smith, Private Thomas Oughton check over a parachute and payload. Photo/Warren Buckland

The belt of heavy rain which swept across Hawke's Bay yesterday morning may have created some smiles across the rural community but it led to a "re-jig" of operations for the Royal New Zealand Air Force flight crews taking part in Exercise Skytrain.

"We had to cancel two sorties in the morning due to the conditions," air force public affairs officer Squadron Leader Simon Eichelbaum said.

As well as heavy rain, visibility had lowered dramatically as humid air created mist, and that created problems when it came to carrying out planned low-level parachute/cargo drop operations at specified drop zones.

Those drop zones had been badly affected by the conditions and had to be ruled out.

"But we have a saying here and it is 'flexibility is the key to air power' - we are exercising our flexibility."

Squadron Leader Eichelbaum said crews and flight planners had revised the schedule and the disruption would be relatively minor to the whole schedule of the exercise.

There had been survival training lectures planned for later in the week for air crews but they were brought forward and took place yesterday while the Hercules C-130 aircraft were grounded.

The catch-up flights would likely be carried out later in the week in the time the lectures had originally be scheduled.

"And we are still pretty well bedding in here so there is plenty of work going on."

The meteorological forecasts were being closely monitored and the prospects looked fine and clear for the rest of the week. Squadron Leader Eichelbaum said the exercise crews were not bothered by a spot of rain.

"Hey, I'm from Auckland, this is not that unusual," he said.

As the skies cleared late morning a navigation exercise was able to go ahead and the first of a series of night flights to train crews in the use of specialised night vision equipment was set to take place.

He said the 150-odd personnel had been delighted with the reception they had received from the community.

"So everyone is in a real positive frame of mind - it is good to be here."

Earlier this week he delivered flyers to residents in Westshore advising there could be some noise disruption with low-flying aircraft.

"But the people I spoke to were so enthusiastic about having us here."

On Saturday the public will get the opportunity to get a close-up look at the two 40 Squadron Hercules and other aircraft taking part.

There were plans to bring in trainer aircraft as well as one of the air force's new Ohakea-based NH90 helicopters.

The training exercise is due to wrap up on January 29.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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