February 28, 2019 – The last Royal Australian Navy Bell 429 helicopter is making its final public appearance at the Australian International Airshow 2019 at Avalon, Victoria, this week.
Originally commissioned into service in 2012, Navy’s 723 Squadron operated the Bell 429s to maintain and develop the skills of junior helicopter aircrew.
“We trained junior aircrew in the Bell 429 to improve and maintain their skills,” said Pilot Training instructor Lieutenant Cliff Gaudie.
“The Bells were great little helicopters that enabled young naval Pilots and aircrew the chance to hone their skills before they started flying the MH-60R Seahawks or the MRH-90 helicopters.
“Leasing them from Raytheon has been a perfect arrangement to provide this vital capability in a cost effective model and the Raytheon guys have been very responsive to our needs.
The Bells have been extremely busy during their time in Navy service, flying more than 10,000 hours and training more than 100 aircrew.
They have travelled the length and breadth of the country, supporting everything from naval small boat work ups off the coast of Darwin to providing a flypast for an Aviation Warfare Officer Course graduation at East Sale, Victoria.
“We have provided support to some of the most senior Defence officers, including the Governor-General during the 2012 Narrabri floods,” Lieutenant Gaudie said.
In addition to supporting operations, the Bells have made numerous public appearances at a diverse range of events including Anzac Day services and motor racing events like the Australian Formula One Grand Prix and V8 Supercars.
“It’s a little sad to see the last Bell go, but they’re being replaced by even more capable training helicopters, the EC-135T2+, parked right next to us here at Avalon,” Lieutenant Gaudie said.
The Australian International Airshow is being held at Avalon from 26 February to 3 March 2019.