A significant milestone has been passed in the P-3K2 Orion Introduction Into Service process—on 17 August the first Transition Course sortie was flown. Training sorties are now being flown frequently from Whenuapai.
Flying training on the newly upgraded Orions is an important step for the operational test and evaluation of the upgraded aircraft, one of the major projects undertaken by the RNZAF and the Ministry of Defence.
Group Captain Kevin McEvoy, the Officer Commanding 485 Wing, said
‘I was delighted that we have accomplished this major advance in training for the aircraft’s improved capability. The initial aim of our test and evaluation programme is to release the Search and Rescue and Maritime Surveillance capabilities of the upgraded aircraft. The flying phase of the aircrew training marks a step change in our work towards that aim.”
Squadron Leader Bill Rowling, the P-3K2 Introduction Into Service Manager explained that another two aircraft should be joining the sole P-3K2 in the upgraded fleet by the end of September.
- NZ4205, the second production aircraft, is under going acceptance testing at RNZAF Base Woodbourne.
- NZ4201, the first production aircraft, is undergoing its scheduled Depot Servicing, also at Woodbourne.
When these two aircraft reach Whenuapai, they will bring the P-3K2 fleet up to three.
Steve Smyth, HQ NZDF Capability Branch Manager Air Introduction Into Service, acknowleged the reality of managing a complex project such as the Orion upgrade: “The reality is that we have had un-forecast, but necessary, additional airframe testing and a few ‘legacy’ issues with temperamental engines and propellers.
“None-the-less, the P-3K2 capability delivery team within the Joint Project Office, across Capability Branch, Ministry of Defence, 485 Wing, No.5 Squadron and in the RNZAF Directorate of Project Engineering and Certification [who lead the technical airworthiness delivery and engineering support] have been incredibly resilient.
“Our first Transition Course is primed to graduate at the end of October, allowing capability development and operational test and evaluation on the upgraded Orions to commence soon after.”