An RNZAF A109 crew (shown above) undertaking the mountain flying phase of Exercise Blackbird 2012. (photo : NZDF)
Exercise Blackbird is the Air Force’s annual rotary wing mountain flying exercise designed to familiarize crews with high altitude flying operations and took place between 2 and 8 December 2012.
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Spin cycle: New Zealand Air Force Flight Sergeant Glenn Whitley at the door of the A109 Light Utility Helicopter as it hovers over Dip Flat near St Arnaud.
One of New Zealand's five A109 light utility helicopters managed to get a few metres off the ground at Dip Flat near St Arnaud yesterday before it was grounded because of heavy rain and low cloud.
The flight was part of Exercise Blackbird, an annual New Zealand Air Force mountain training drill that gives pilots and crew the chance to practise the skills needed for mountain flying.
Almost 100 people, including five Iroquois helicopter crews from No 3 Squadron and two A109 crews from the Helicopter Transition Unit, are based at Dip Flat for the week-long exercise, which started on Monday.
It is the first major field deployment for the A109, which was officially unveiled in New Zealand in May last year. The A109 was bought to replace the Bell 47 Sioux and is used mainly as a training helicopter for the larger NH90.