Air force trains near St Arnaud

Last updated 12:30 08/12/2012

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A Royal New Zealand Air Force training exercise at Dip Flat, near St Arnaud, this week was the first large-scale training exercise for pilots of the new-generation A109 light utility helicopter.

Exercise Blackbird was also the first time the air force had been back at the military training area since last July, and was a chance to showcase a sample of the Ministry of Defence acquisition project.

The RNZAF has formed a Helicopter Transition Unit that will manage the operational and technical aspects of the fleet's introduction into service.

Around 98 air force staff including five Iroquois crew and two A109 crew camped out at Dip Flat for the mountain flying training exercise, which was hampered by challenging weather conditions.

Wing Commander and Commanding Officer No 3 Squadron Shaun Clark said the environment at Dip Flat, with its proximity to the mountains and established infrastructure provided a "really good" training environment, not only for flying, but for field deployment.

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- The Nelson Mail

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