COMFAA's OfficeI trust this finds the FAA Association members well. I will take this opportunity to congratulate RADM Mark Campbell on his taking up the Presidency of our Association and offer my deepest appreciation to the tireless work by CDRE Geoff Ledger for his time at the controls; few have shown more dedication to their Fleet Air Arm and we are very fortunate to have had Geoff keeping the Association on track and prospering. I have had the honour of working for both these officers earlier in my career and it speaks volumes for the FAAA to have such extraordinary people lead the Association – we do create the best.

I thought it time for an update on how we who are caretaking your FAA are tracking. However, before I start I wished to share with you my personal feelings after attending LCDR Clive Mayo’s funeral in Perth on Friday 13 January 2017. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet many of the FAAA members and Clive’s family. What an honour it was for me. Of course Clive was a long time member and active supporter of the FAAA. While I listened as CAPT Brett Dowsing, amongst others, gave a rousing eulogy describing the smiles and challenges associated the life of an aviator who had served his country in peace and war, I was reminded once again of the importance of the FAAA and the support and comradeship it provides to those who wear the various badges and insignia of the FAA. Clive was a warrior in every sense of the word, as were his mates, many of whom I met. He, along with others, have dealt with the strains of conflict, both those at the time of action and those that come home with them and are endured within, and by family and friends. I may not go as far as to say the FAAA was the reason why people were able to manage the memories, but I will go as far to say that the FAAA was one of the major contributors to ensuring our FAA veterans have a quality of life imbued with mateship and the opportunity to remember the good times. For all those who I met in WA, please accept my thanks for your time and your inclusion – you are a special lot who own a great chapter in the FAA’s history.

To the state of the FAA – well 2016 was indeed fast paced and full of successes and challenges. It is easy to say it was a busy year, but I don’t recall a year in the FAA that was not busy. It was certainly a good year and I can give you a flavour of a smattering of the achievements for the year.

  • 808 Sqn conducted a major HADR mission providing desperately needed support to one of our Pacific neighbours in Operation Fiji Assist operating form HMAS Canberra. The detachment team and their three MRH-90s achieved outstanding results and did our FAA proud.

  • The MH60R Seahawk achieved its first operational deployment aboard HMAS Perth in the Middle East and has shown its exceptional capabilities and we have now returned to the art of ‘gang dipping’ and managed to conduct the first Australian station Hellfire launches. There is no Frigate CO in the Fleet that doesn’t want one of these outstanding aircraft on their deck. This formidable machine is rapidly making its mark in the safe hands of 725 and 816 Sqns.

  • We have now commenced operating the new EC135 training aircraft as an integrated part of 723 Squadron and will commence the first pilot course in Jan 2018 with both Navy and Army students – the whole training system, complete with three full-motion simulators, is bringing a new era and quality to the training of our next generation aviators.

  • While Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) are hardly new to the FAA having commenced UAV operations in 1953, we are certainly accelerating their integration into operations once preserved for our crewed aircraft. The Navy Unmanned Aerial Systems Unit (NUASU) is currently operating the ScanEagle and last year flew over 400 hours including a deployment to Christmas Island for some operational evaluation work. It was a good year.

Firefly Memorial

Above:  Commodore Smallhorn, Commander Fleet Air Arm (left), with CDRE Geoff Ledger (Ret’d) (centre), the then President of the FAAAA.  The occasion was the laying of a wreath last year on the wreckage of an RAN Firefly in which two aircrew lost their lives in 1956.

The year ahead looks just as good, perhaps even better as we have some major historical events for our FAA. In May we will celebrate 100 years since an aircraft first launched from a ship – a Sopwith Baby launching from HMAS Brisbane. There will be a formal cocktail party come ball to celebrate this special event. In October it will be 50 years since the first RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam deployed on operations with the OIC a then LCDR Neil Ralph. As is probably known to most, RADM Ralph today is retired in Nowra. 723 Sqn will host a fly in day and relaxed evening event and we look forward to a great turn out. Then at the end of 2017 we will retire from service both the S-70B-2 Seahawk and the AS350BA Squirrel. These two aircraft have served their nation well in peace and conflict. Importantly that will also signify the completion of the re-capitalisation of the FAA. It’s an important achievement and represents the hard and tireless work of many people of the past 10-15 years – a major milestone in our history. However the grass does not grow long beneath our feet as we introduce a new rotary wing UAV, the S100 Camcopter, this year and it will be at sea conducting trials in the second half of 2017. Importantly we will also deploy a MH-60R Seahawk and a ScanEagle UAS together in the Middle East this year. There is a great deal to be learnt from this deployment. This style of manned and unmanned aircraft teaming will become a mainstay amongst the capability the FAA offers in the years to come. It will be a good year.

COMFAA Presents US Air MedalsI am so very proud of the people of the FAA today and consider it an honour to work for them. We who are holding the FAA fort continue to benefit from the strong and professional cultural legacy left by those who have gone before us. Thanks for staying engaged and when your around Nowra or see our aircraft around the country please be sure to stop and say hi to the team – they love it when you do.


Left:  CDRE Smallhorn presents RADM Neil Ralph, the Patron of the FAAA, with his US Air Medal during a ceremony at HMAS Albatross in March last year.  RADM (then LCDR) Ralph took the first RAN Helicopter Flight to Vietnam back in 1967.