It was rate against rate, mate against mate before a gas turbine engine roared to life at 200,000rpm signalling the end of the 2020 Aviation Engineering Challenge.

Reigning champions No. 808 Squadron defended its title against No. 725 Squadron at HMAS Albatross, during a seven-hour marathon of technical mastery, ending with an interconnected aircraft control system. 

No. 808 Squadron Maintenance Manager Petty Officer Air Technical Avionics Daniel Mclean said there was a lot to do. 

“We had to build push-pull rods attached to an actuator, there were hydraulic pipelines, a pressure gauge and the electrician had to wire up the whole system,” Petty Officer Mclean said.

The battle drew a big crowd and it wasn’t until the final minutes the teams knew if all their work had been for nothing. 

“When connecting that last plug, we were saying to ourselves ‘come on, come on, please work’,” Petty Officer Mclean said. 

Drawing on the technicians' skills, there was no way to prepare for the battle, with teams relying on innovation to succeed. 

The No. 808 Squadron team started with a strong lead, having completed most of the system before lunch. Tables then turned in favour of No. 725 Squadron as No. 808 Squadron scrambled to keep pace. 

“We thought we had it in the bag before lunch then it was a rush to the finish,” Petty Officer Mclean said.

“The ‘A’ rates finished before the ‘V’ rates so they re-did a section of the hydraulic line, because they had time and materials and they thought they could have done a better job.

“The whole day meant nothing until we connected that final plug and everything lit up like it was supposed to and worked.”

It was a tight competition with both teams unsure of which team had won the challenge.

Mistakes during the competition received a time penalty, with No. 808 Squadron winning by one minute and two points.

“If the ‘V’ rates had not fixed that section we would not have won,” Petty Officer Mclean said.

The victors received $5000 worth of tools, selected by each member, a gold Champion Navy Technician medallion and a Navy Engineering Challenge cuff-rate badge. 

Petty Officer Mclean said he was ecstatic with the prize and bragging rights. 

“It’s pretty incredible, I don’t know if I can spend all that money on tools. I will have everything,” he said. 

“We are going to push for Number 808 Squadron to enter next year because we want to go for three in a row.” 

Watch the video at https://youtu.be/0ut-maGjpfQ