Ready to support the disaster season

While many personnel are enjoying well-earned family time over the Christmas/New Year period, some members of 808 Squadron at HMAS Albatross will be on alert as the Operational Readiness Squadron for this period.

Two MRH90 helicopter crews will be on standby, should the need arise, to provide Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief in response to bushfires, floods, cyclones or other emergencies.

MRH90 pilot Lieutenant Commander Colin McLeod says the members of 808 Squadron are well prepared.

“Bambi Bucket training has provided pilots and aircrewman with a basic understanding of how to set up, deploy, fill and release water from the underslung bucket,” Lieutenant Commander McLeod said.

“This operation enables the MRH90 to drop 1000kg of water at a time onto a fire.”

“The physical sequence of operating a Bambi Bucket is not too dissimilar to the carriage of an underslung load, so 808 Squadron aircrew are well trained in the flying skills required.”

Lieutenant Commander McLeod said the MRH90 is well suited to this type of work.

“The aircraft is fast and smooth and cruises at 150 knots which allows rapid transfer of personnel.“

“The large cabin space allows for bulky equipment to be loaded internally or underslung if required, he said.

“We can also assist civilian fire fighting agencies in fire spotting, evacuating people from areas under threat if needed, and the movement of key firefighting personnel and equipment around the fire area utilizing the 20 seat capacity and 4 tonne cargo hook.”

The role of the MRH90 helicopter is wide ranging. With the retirement of the S70B2 Seahawk, the MRH90 is currently the ‘go-to’ aircraft for maritime support to Navy ships, search and rescue in the overland and maritime environments, and support to the civilian community through bushfire response, cyclone response and flood response.

The 808 Squadron operational readiness crew consists of two pilots and two aircrewman plus a maintenance team with the ability to prepare, maintain and move the aircraft for various tasking response.

Lieutenant Commander McLeod said that while standby duty sees Christmas leave restricted for these personnel, it is never difficult to fill the watch bill.

“The members of 808 Squadron are always keen to take the opportunity to undertake roles that demonstrate support to the community should it arise.”