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Northern NSW : Summer 2017
In preparation for bringing the new AW139s into action, Rescue Helicopter pilots undergo rigorous testing at AgustaWestland’s training academy at Sesto Calende, Italy. This is made possible through the Service’s valued partnership with Glencore. Head of training and checking Richard Nest recently chaperoned 17 of his colleagues through a 29-day program commencing in October. Contract pilots were engaged at Tamworth, Lismore and Newcastle to cover for their absence. The intensive training program involves a two-day HEMS (helicopter emergency medical service) course and a two-day proficiency check. Nest says the two weeks of ground classes in complex aircraft systems requires a lot of study to achieve the required 75% pass mark. ‘Simulator training every day, often in the early hours of the morning or late at night, can cause fatigue after a few weeks,’ he says. ‘There is very little free time throughout the course due to the daily schedule and constant study. The simulator operates seven days per week.’ Pilots spend 50 hours in the simulator of which 28 hours are training as pilot in command, and then two hours in the real aircraft. Ground training lessons are shared with pilots from other companies around the world, but the flying training is conducted in pilot pairs from the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service. Nest shares the Service’s training pilot role with Mike de Winton and Peter Cook and one of them is always in attendance for the final 12 hours of simulator training, which is typically spread over a week. Engineering training and pilot training are completely separate. Technician training for the Service’s engineers is conducted over 38 days, comprising 26 days theoretical and 12 days practical. The AW139 is a multi- role helicopter and easily adapted to several different roles. ‘Medical and rescue is just one and it has fulfilled this role very well for 10 years,’ Nest says. ‘ Refresher training will be done in the Toll or LifeFlight simulators in Sydney or Brisbane. These are new to the country in the past few months.’ These AW139 simulators in Australia negate the need for Service pilots to go to Sweden for specialist training. Sweden, and now Italy. It’s a tough gig. ‘Italy is a great place for different experiences and food,’ says Nest. ‘But professionally, to spend time with the international aviation community helps teach us new things, but also validates that we are among the best in the world with our training and the way we conduct operations.’ (L-R) Pilots Rob Moore from the Lismore base and Dave Davies from the Tamworth base, outside the entrance to AgustaWestland’s training academy at Sesto Calende, Italy Learning to fly 18 Rescue Magazine SUMMER 2017
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