Pilots spread their wings in training

01:00, Nov 21 2012

A week-long training exercise involving Royal New Zealand Navy and Air Force personnel started on Monday in St Arnaud Range in the Nelson Lakes area.

Navy pilots, crew members and maintenance staff met yesterday morning at Base Woodbourne for a briefing on the day's exercise.

Training was reduced to one Seasprite helicopter after a flat tyre and a rescue mission delayed the use of the other two aircraft.

Navy officer Lieutenant Commander Brendon Clark said the crew trained in the area once a year to get familiar with mountainous conditions.

Pilots do four missions, three are instructional flights and one is a solo flight.

"Pilot instructors take the younger guys up, who are all experienced pilots, with a minimum of 500 hours flying," Lieutenant Commander Clark said.


"But they don't necessarily have the experience in the mountains yet, which is why when we come down here.

"The pilots initially go up with an instructor."

The crews operate out of Dip Flat to reduce transit time, he said.

"It's about a 20 to 30 minute flight to get up to the decent part of the mountain, so if you've only got a two hour sortie (mission), you're spending a lot of time transitting."

The navy's Seasprite helicopters can each carry a crew of three, with up to five passengers, and can be armed with a combination of torpedoes, depth charges, air to surface missiles and a machine gun.