Army personnel deployed in support of the bushfire relief effort in Victoria have achieved a record for the most hours flown in a month by the Australian CH-47 Chinook fleet.
After arriving at RAAF Base East Sale in support of Operation Bushfire Assist, Task Unit Chinook, of the 5th Aviation Regiment, has flown numerous sorties in Victoria and South Australia, conducting evacuations and specialist logistics tasks.
Maintenance Troop Commander for C Squadron, Captain Amy Power, said hitting the 400-hour mark after a month was testament to her team’s high-tempo deployment.
“The team have found the experience really worthwhile – we want to help in these situations so coming down here has been a great way to support the Australian community and of course support the Victorian Government in their efforts to help with the bushfires,” Captain Power said.
“At the start of our deployment to Bushfire Assist we conducted a lot of evacuations and now we are providing specialist logistics support in the form of moving people and equipment.
“We’ve been taking hay, generators and fuel to farmers, as well as assisting the Red Cross to transport their supplies.
“It’s what the Chinook is good at – moving heavy things around different places.
“There has absolutely been an increased maintenance tempo during Bushfire Assist compared to how we normally operate.
“We’ve done a lot of flying and the maintenance workforce have been working extremely hard to make sure the aircraft is serviceable and ready to go when required.”
Task Unit Chinook will keep up the tempo when it returns to home base in Townsville by maintaining readiness for the high-risk weather season.
“Once we get home we’ll get some services in and get the aircraft ready so we can go again if we need to,” Captain Power said.
One member of the team who has been crucial to the success of Task Unit Chinook is C Squadron Avionics Technician Corporal Eamon Fuery.
“My job is to fix and diagnose the electrical systems on board the CH-47 Chinook,” he said.
Corporal Fuery was contacted by his unit and tasked to the operation on New Year’s Eve. Task Unit Chinook departed Townsville on January 1 and began operating out of RAAF Base East Sale the following day.
“When we first arrived we worked 12-hour shifts as the aircraft conducted multiple taskings in and out of Bairnsdale,” Corporal Fuery said.
“It’s been great conducting the maintenance in support of a defined task like Bushfire Assist.
“Working on Chinooks is fantastic – it would be difficult to move me onto a different airframe, I love working on these.
“I was proud to be a part of the record flight hours and contribute to the maintenance and keeping the aircraft in the air.”
Part of the task unit’s work while based out of Adelaide included providing assistance on Kangaroo Island.