An increase of airlift training in regional Queensland has provided opportunity for Air Force to engage with remote communities.
In early 2019, No. 35 Squadron (35SQN) relocated from RAAF Base Richmond to Amberley in Brisbane’s outer west, bringing with it a fleet of C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifters.
With the move came a requirement for airlift training to remote airfields, including the town of Wondai, some 160km northwest of RAAF Base Amberley.
On September 7, 2019, 35SQN opened up the ramp of a C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifter for the local Wondai community at the local airfield.
More than 600 people toured through the C-27J Spartan, which has become a more common sight in the area this year as it conducts local training missions.
During the community event, 35SQAN personnel shared a barbecue with the community and answered their questions about the Spartan and it's role in Air Force.
Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Thomas Johnston, 35SQN pilot, said the response from Wondai was extremely positive on the day.
“It was clear that they were interested in the aircraft, about what we were there to accomplish, and thankful for the opportunity to come speak with us,” FLTLT Johnston said.
“There were also the questions that come with touring a transport aircraft – how much can we carry, what do we use it for, basic stats about the aircraft, and what all the buttons do.
“There was definitely a sense they want us to do activities like this more often.”
Defence Force Recruiting capitalised on the event to engage with the community on the day as well.
Ordinarily, the Spartan covers the distance from RAAF Base Amberley to Wondai in a 25 minute flight, and will conduct a series of landings and take offs from its airstrip.
That proximity and the condition of its airstrip makes it ideal for training Spartan crews.
“It’s an unsealed airfield, and its size allows us to conduct initial training for austere operations,” FLTLT Johnston said.
“It’s challenging for new crews, but at the same time not too challenging.”
Wing Commander Ben Poxon, Commanding Officer of No. 35 Squadron, said community engagement of this kind worked to the Spartan’s strengths.
“We’re able to quickly reach remote airfields that few other Air Force squadrons can, and that’s allowing us to engage communities that otherwise don’t often have a relationship with Defence,” Wing Commander Poxon said.
“In Wondai’s case, that engagement is important to us being able to continue training in that area, which in turn allows us to support operations domestically and abroad.”
“The Wondai community might not realise it, but its support ensures No. 35 Squadron can deliver aid during disaster relief operations.”