It was watching videos of military flying that first piqued the interest of a young Lieutenant Jaime Spragge, who went on to qualify as a CH-47F Chinook helicopter pilot and earlier this year reached 500 flying hours.
“I was always looking for something different to do, something that wasn’t sitting at a desk from nine-to-five,” Lieutenant Spragge said.
Last year, she went to the USA for her initial Chinook training, and saw alligators sunning themselves while flying in Florida.
Her instructor said: “You haven’t been to southern USA if you haven’t seen a ‘gator’.”
“It was really strange flying over there. It was so flat,” Lieutenant Spragge said.
“We think Australia is flat, but at least we’ve got the ranges.”
Flying in the Army is different to what a normal pilot would do, according to Lieutenant Spragge.
It includes things such as flying using night-vision goggles at 50ft above the ground.
Lieutenant Spragge grew up in a place about a two-hour drive from RAAF Base Amberley, surrounded by training areas used by fast jets and helicopters.
As a teenager, she did about 10 hours of flying at a family-friend’s farm.
She started the recruitment process at about the age of 15, and said it just “fell together”.
The day after finishing Year 12, Lieutenant Spragge missed schoolies to attend two weeks of flight screening.
A month later, she started at ADFA, then undertook pilot training in 2018.
Lieutenant Spragge said the challenging nature of the pilots’ course meant getting enough sleep and prioritising mental and physical health were key to success, as well as sticking to a schedule.
“It’s not a walk in the park by any stretch, but it is achievable,” she said.
“There’s a lot of content to learn and stuff to get through rapidly.”
She is now posted to the 5th Aviation Regiment based at RAAF Base Townsville.
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