15 Maret 2012
The three Navy Augusta A109E helicopters fly over Tianjara area in formation. (photo : RAN)
723 Squadron’s Agusta Westland A109E helicopters retired in style on Friday, 9 March 2012, when they made a spectacular final landing at HMAS Albatrossfollowing a formation flight over Jervis Bay. In a final tribute the three aircraft taxied through an arch of water provided by two of the base’s fire trucks. Amongst those waiting on the tarmac to farewell the Agusta were Commander Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Peter Laver, RAN and 723 Squadron Commanding Officer Commander Matthew Shand, RAN.
The Agusta 109s first entered Royal Australian Navy Service in June 2007. Provided and maintained by Raytheon Australia, the aircraft flew over 6000 hours and qualified over 60 aircrew in that time.
The helicopters were part of Navy’s Retention and Motivation Initiative (RMI) which aims to provide development opportunities for junior pilots, aviation warfare officers and aircrewmen awaiting operational flying training on Seahawk and MRH90 helicopters.
Commanding Officer 723 Squadron Commander Matthew Shand said the development opportunities the Agusta provided was invaluable.
"The A109 presented a fantastic opportunity for Naval Aircrew to gain experience in an advanced twin engine aircraft prior to commencing Operational Flying Training in either the Sea King, Seahawk or MRH90 helicopters.”
The A109E's also provided vital support in Defence Community Assistance operations, including the 2009 Victoria bushfires and 2011 Queensland flood relief and were a regular feature at open days, air shows, schools and community events throughout Australia.
The Agusta will be replaced by three Bell 429 helicopters, the first of which will arrive in March 2012 and undergo testing before entering in service with 723 Squadron in May.
LCDR Tim Kerridge, Officer in Charge RMI said the 429 would offer junior pilots the exciting opportunity to fly the most modern helicopters in the Australia but while the 429s were state of the art the one thing they couldn’t quite match the Agusta for was flair.
“The Agusta are a lovely looking aircraft”, he said.
“When you see them out there in flight, you can tell they were designed by Italians because they simply exude style,” LCDR Kerridge said.