Alastair Bridges - Helicopter training
Department of Veterans' Affairs
Learning to fly a helicopter initially is difficult there's no doubt about it. You've got to be able to coordinate two arms and two legs doing different things all at the same time. So we used to quite enjoy being there at Fairburn watching our mates trying to land these things on the concrete pads and putting them down on the concrete pad if you weren't really good she'd start to scrape and jump and you'd see the trainee pilot pulling the collector putting a bit of power in and she'd leap back into the air again.
Once you got the hang and it didn't take too long, Once you got the hang it operates from your hand and feet type, you know, the way of looking at it, much like any other aeroplane. If you want to go left, you move the stick to the left and that type of thing so it was nothing really different in that. The more difficult thing I suppose is hovering and if you want to we can have a quick look at the training here compared with what we were going to face in Vietnam.
Training here was all about learning how to fly a helicopter in Australia. It had nothing to do with combat conditions in a totally different country. In the jungle when you are going down into a pad not much bigger than the helicopter, about 30 foot-high-trees all around you and somebody shooting at you. That was never covered at all here. We learned how, just over, I'm looking out the window because I'm looking at where Delta 42, which is our training area out there. Aussie bush, quite different, different trees, well dispersed and plenty of room and I look back on my training now and, you know, it was a waste of time.
Under training you never talked about, well, I have to think about that a little bit, I think that some of our instructors had just come back, well they'd certainly been to Malaya, perhaps come back from Vietnam but there weren't too many because it was very early on in our time there. Nobody really talked about, nobody ever talked about what might confront you when you got up there. And when we got there, for some reason these veterans never told us anything at all either. "You just sit there you're the co-pilot. Just sit in the left seat and we'll do everything."