Australia: Senior Naval Aviator Leads by Example for Helicopter Underwater Escape Training

Senior Naval Aviator Leads by Example for Helicopter Underwater Escape Training

“You can’t expect people to feel normal doing these things because this is an abnormal activity around an abnormal event”, is how Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Tim Barrett, AM CSC RAN, described the challenges of Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET).

Physically demanding and personally challenging, HUET is essential for all Defence Force personnel who carry out helicopter operations over water. The training provides the skills required to escape an aircraft in the event of an emergency sea landing.

HUET qualifications must be renewed every two years and RADM Barrett says regular retraining is invaluable.

“Even though I have been doing HUET regularly since I first began flying in 1985, I appreciate the opportunity requalification provides to practice and correct my technique and to ensure I’m getting it right. Even with all my previous training, I still needed to get ‘dunked’ an extra couple of times today to sort out an error in my procedure.”

“I was very fortunate,” RADM Barrett says of his first HUET experience. “I’d done a bit of diving so being underwater and upside down didn’t worry me and it was just a matter of getting the procedures right”.

“If you don’t know what to expect, if you don’t like getting water up your nose and if you’re not that confident underwater then it is a challenge, but the beauty of the HMAS Albatross training facility is there’s someone who can sort you out underwater or above water within seconds if you have any issues. This largely removes the fear factor and then it’s just a matter of getting as comfortable as you can.”

When asked what advice he would give someone about to undertake their first HUET, RADM Barrett said, “It’s easy to say relax, it’s easy to say just feel confident, but you’ve then got to experience it first hand and realise it can be done. When you understand that if you use all the right methods it will be a safe evolution, then you get more relaxed, more confident and it becomes easier”.

HUET courses are conducted in a sophisticated purpose built complex attached to the Albatross Gymnasium. RADM Barrett said the resources, both structural and staff, are of a very high standard. “The facility is extremely well run. I was here as Commanding Officer when it was introduced and I know how good the system is and I know how good the staff are at keeping people safe. It has been 12 years since we put this facility in and I always enjoy coming back and being part of the training and making sure that I’m getting it right”.

Naval Today Staff, April 22, 2013; Image: Australian Navy