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 17 Sqn Deployment to Dragon Peaks Park in the Drakensberg Mountains.

By Lt D. Ramsuran, 17 Squadron

As a newly qualified co-pilot on the Oryx helicopter and now stationed at 17 Sqn, I had the opportunity to deploy to the Drakensberg Mountains near Winterton. Although this was not my first time on a trip to the mountains for training, this trip was from an operational squadron. At 87 HFS we were introduced to mountain flying and covered most of the procedural side, but this trip with 17Sqn was an eye-opener as we practiced real-life scenarios. Some of the exercises that we went through were:

  • Live hoisting of SA Mountain Club members and medics onto mountains at around 10500’AMSL.

  • Cargo slinging at 10000’AMSL.

  • Pinnacle landings, some at 11000’AMSL.

  • Valley flying and confined area landings.

We also had a simulated aircraft crash, and it was wonderful to see how efficient and how quick the rescuers reacted and actually got to the ‘downed aircraft’.

We were quite lucky on the second last day of the deployment when snow fell on the mountains. It was just amazing to see the mountains covered white.

In the aviation line it is extremely important to maintain currencies and get as much training in as possible, and on this deployment I learnt quite a bit on how an operational squadron handles different scenarios; not to mention that the scenery and environment was like out of a post card.

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