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Navy careers take flight

Sydney Morning Herald

Saturday February 12, 2011

Put your feet on the deck and your head in the clouds with a specialist aviation role, writes Keeli Cambourne. The air force isn't the only branch of the Australian Defence Force that can promise recruits the opportunity to fly. In addition to its operations using all manner of vessels, the navy operates numerous aircraft and specialist aviation positions are among the most sought-after jobs."The navy is recruiting for personnel all the time and there is a variety of specialist jobs within it," a spokesman from the ADF says.Leading Seaman aircrewman Joel Young joined the Royal Australian Navy at 19 and it was while at sea that he learnt about the career opportunities available in aviation."My dad was a mechanic for the airframes and engines but it was while I was out at sea that I got talking to one of the aircrewmen," Young says."Basically an aircrewman is in the back of the aircraft. We are the winch operators, surface swimmers and look after clearance in crowded areas. We're the guys that you see getting winched down to pull people out of the water."Young spent the first eight years of his career in the navy as a combat systems operator, specialising in sonar warfare, and last year applied for an aircrewman position."You have to have some seniority to apply," he says."There is a lot of responsibility being part of such a small crew. I had applied three times previously but it is very competitive."You have to have leadership skills, be able to work well in a team and have good resource management skills," he says."The pilot side of things never phased me; what we do in the back is invaluable. It is frightening at first but the job is incredible."Roles in the aviation arm of the Royal Australian Navy depend on training and seniority and cover everything from maintenance to pilots to tactical response specialists.After completing basic training, sailors can choose to specialise in positions within the flying branch of the service.One such role is that of an aviation technician for aircraft. These are the mechanics responsible for the maintenance and repair of aircraft systems and components.Another role is that of aviation technician for avionics.These specialists assess and repair a range of aircraft components, including the electrical systems, flight instruments, communications systems and air weapon systems.Navy officers can apply for positions such as maritime aviation warfare officer. This is a senior role which requires not only being a qualified helicopter pilot but also training to become a tactical co-ordinator and mission commander, controlling the use of the aircraft's weapon systems.Navy officers can also apply to train as navy pilots, which are tasked with flying in extremely challenging conditions: day and night and in all kinds of weather, taking off and landing on a ship's moving flight deck."There are also positions available as aerospace engineers, who are responsible for overseeing the maintenance and repair of the Navy's fleet of high-tech helicopters, including the Seahawk and MRH-90," the spokesman says."They are responsible for design integrity, configuration control and maintenance support. "

© 2011 Sydney Morning Herald

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