Members of the public lined up in droves for the chance to hop in a simulator and experience flying a Navy helicopter at the Hunter Valley Airshow in Cessnock.
Housed in the Wirraway hanger, the Naval Aviation Prospects Scheme (NAPS) simulator let people of all ages don a virtual reality helmet and operate the controls of an EC-135 helicopter, using foot pedals and joysticks.
Acting Sub-Lieutenant Christian White, a NAPS team member from HMAS Albatross, said the air show, which ran from March 25-26, was a chance to show that Navy capability spans further than ships.
“We give them some basic instruction and then they can try to take off from HMAS Adelaide, fly over Jervis Bay and land safely,” Acting Sub-Lieutenant White said.
“We want to show that in the ADF, aviation activities are not limited to Air Force jets and Army helicopters, but are also available in the Navy.”
Eight-year-old Kira, who came to the air show from Cooma with her family, quickly learnt how to operate the controls and was soon competing with her older brother.
“It was scary at first and I didn’t think I could do it but then it was so much fun,” Kira said.
“The seat kept moving as I was flying the helicopter and when I put on the helmet it really felt like I was flying.”
After experiencing the NAPS simulation, visitors were able to step inside a real-life EC-135 to take photos and explore the cockpit controls.
The display was set up by the 723 Squadron Joint Helicopter School from Albatross and demonstrated by Lieutenant Joel Bulley, a graduate pilot, who recently flew the Chief of Navy from Canberra to HMAS Creswell so he could attend a graduation parade.
“The EC-135 is a training helicopter with a glass cockpit for high visibility and an auto-pilot system, which really helps our instructors,” Lieutenant Bulley said.
“And it’s one of our most loved displays, with queues of 50 to 100 people waiting up to 90 minutes just to climb into the back for a photo.”
After seeing the EC-135, visitors were treated to a dramatic flying display from the Navy helicopter that is used in real-life military situations.
The MH-60R Seahawk Romeo winched a casualty to safety, and the crowd were left in no doubt that aviation forms a major part of Navy operations.