Hot Samoa readies air force for PNG mission

MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 05:00 04/06/2012

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South Pacific

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Air force crew returned to New Zealand yesterday after training in Samoa, where their skills were tested in the hot, humid, tropical conditions.

It was good timing for some of the 90 crew who travelled to the island nation, as 35 members will soon head to Papua New Guinea where they will help in the upcoming presidential elections.

Training is conducted in the islands every one to two years as much of the Royal New Zealand Air Force's humanitarian aid and disaster relief work is carried out in the Pacific.

The tropical conditions decrease a helicopter's performance.

"It's quite challenging. It's a lot different flying here to back home," No3 Squadron leader Ben Stephens said.

"The higher we get or the hotter it is, the less power we get."

Many of the crew had never performed in such conditions, he said.

In Papua New Guinea the squadron will drop election ballots and officials to remote locations "to ensure the elections run smoothly and everyone gets a chance irrespective of their location".

In Samoa, they dropped water tanks and an 800-kilogram generator, which will power a cellular phone site, to remote islands.

They performed mock emergency flights, flew over the formal 50th anniversary celebrations and transported Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae to the rebuilt Satitoa Primary School.

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- The Dominion Post

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