Royal Australian Navy Welcomes Bell 429 Into Service
“These are indeed exciting times”, 723 Squadron Commanding Officer, Commander Matthew Shand told the assembled guests as the Royal Australian Navy marked the introduction of the Bell 429 helicopter into service with a ceremony at HMAS Albatross on 5th June.
“Since 1953, when 723 and the RAN received its first helicopters, 723 Squadron has continuously operated rotary wing aircraft including, Sycamores Scouts, Wessex, Iroquois, Kiowas, Squirrels and the A109.” Commander Shand said. “During this process I believe 723 has evolved into a rotary wing training centre of excellence and today this tradition continues with the latest incarnation, the very contemporary 429.“
Raytheon Australia secured the contract to provide the Navy with three Bell helicopters under the RAN’s Retention and Motivation Initiative (RMI).
Commander Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Peter Laver said the RMI was a very successful program. “It’s ensured our junior aircrew are able to develop their aviation skills prior to operational conversion to front line aircraft types, specifically the MRH90 Taipan and S-70B-2 Seahawk. The introduction of the Bell 429 will expose crews to some of the most advanced technology in rotary wing aviation today.”
LS Aaron Smits of 723 Squadron intends to take full advantage of these exciting times and the opportunities the Bell 429 will provide. “I’ll be trained as an aircrewman in the Bell”, he said, “so while I’ll be doing the same utility evolutions I’ve been doing in the Squirrel, it’s obviously going to be in a bigger aircraft with a bigger winch and the ability to pick up a lot more people, so the Bell is going to advance my capability and my training which will great for my career.”
“The Squirrel was a nice challenge”, LS Smits said, “but the Bell will be a bigger challenge, it’s state of the art, the bees knees with everything you’d want, so it will be really exciting to be in such a capable aircraft and go away and do all the things we need to do in the navy”
Naval Today Staff , June 7, 2012; Image: Australian Navy