Helicopter pilots from the Royal Australian Navy have started training with the U.S. Coast Guard to help fill a shortage of pilots.
Two Australians are training on Sikorsky Aircraft HH-60Js at the Coast Guard’s Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala. Two more are due to arrive in September to train on the Eurocopter HH-65C.
The Coast Guard attributes the pilot shortage to its increase in homeland defense missions after Sept. 11, 2001. Coast Guard officials project it will take them 6-10 years to fill the current shortage.
The Coast Guard and Royal Australian Navy reached an agreement in May for a "loaner" program. The Australian pilots will serve with the Coast Guard for 3-4 years, not including time spent training in Mobile. They are to be assigned to Coast Guard air stations in Cape Cod, Mass.; Miami; San Diego, and San Francisco. All will train to become Coast Guard aircraft commanders.
The Royal Australian Navy was looking to relieve a bottleneck in its program, one Coast Guard official said in explaining why the pilots were sent from Down Under to the United States.
All four pilots hail from the same unit, the 723 Sqdn. based in Nowra, Australia. They are trained on the Eurocopter Squirrel and Sikorsky Aircraft S-70B-2 Seahawk, a version of the H-60 Black Hawk. They normally fly logistics operations.