Sikorsky Australia has onboarded eight new locally trained apprentices into its helicopter maintenance and sustainment facility at Nowra.
The facility, located on the western side of the Royal Australia Navy’s HMAS Albatross air base, is where all of the sustainment and most of the maintenance for the Navy’s 23 MH-60R Seahawk Romeo helicopters is performed. But the workforce is expanding to accommodate nearly three times as many aircraft, with an additional 13 MH-60Rs plus 40 new UH-60M Black Hawks for the Australian Army due to be delivered from next year.
The new intake comprises seven trainee aircraft maintenance apprentices and one warehouse logistician trainee, and all are from the Shoalhaven area. They join four other apprentices already on site, while eight more have previously graduated and transitioned to full-time roles working on some of the most advanced machines in the Australian Defence Force.
In total, the facility has a workforce of some 200 Sikorsky Australia employees. The site achieved an Aircraft Maintenance Training Organisation accreditation through the Defence Aviation Safety Authority in November 2020. It can perform not only scheduled and unplanned maintenance on the aircraft but also complex upgrades and modifications.
“We are delighted to welcome the new apprentices and trainee to our team and look forward to helping them become fully qualified aircraft maintenance engineers and warehouse operation logisticians,” Sikorsky Australia’s general manager Cliff Kyle said.
“Our highly skilled, dedicated regional workforce is the backbone of Sikorsky Australia. The team has been proudly sustaining the ADF [former] Black Hawk and Seahawk helicopter fleets for over 30 years with excellence.
“We are focussed and committed to recruiting and training apprentices and trainees to grow Australia’s aviation industrial base. We will continue to invest in the Shoalhaven workforce to ensure we have the right people trained to deliver complex sustainment services on the ‘Hawk’ assets to ensure they are mission ready for our customer.”
One of the new apprentices, Emily Reichler, was a former landscape gardener.
“I was looking for a stable career with a new challenge every single day and a great environment. I saw the opportunity on Seek and decided to throw my hat in the ring.
“I was fortunate to receive one of the apprenticeships at Sikorsky Australia, and I’m so excited with my new career in sustaining the Royal Australian Navy’s Seahawks.
“Having grown up in the Shoalhaven, you see Navy helicopters all day, every day, so it’s nice to finally understand how they operate and why they do what they do,” she added.
Chris Neville is another new apprentice.
“After nine years within retail, I moved into logistics first with a cheese factory where I built up my experience,” he said.
“I then joined the Sikorsky Australia team as a logistician for over two years. After that time, I was looking for growth opportunities and applied for the aircraft maintenance apprenticeship and won a position.”
Sikorsky Australia’s parent company Lockheed Martin Australia has been engaging with small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the wider region as it seeks to increase the Australian Industry Content (AIC) on systems of US origin.
At the Avalon Airshow on 2 March, an agreement was announced with Albury-based Australian Aerospace Engineering (AAE) to grow its Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) services and spare parts to the expanded Seahawk and new Black Hawk fleets.
The agreement with AAE follows Lockheed Martin Australia’s launch in October 2022 of an Australian Industry Capability Network (ICN) Gateway to identify potential industry partners for the growing Australian and global Seahawk and Black Hawk fleets. The ICN Gateway allows prospective Australian industry partners to register their interest for sustainment work or to become suppliers in the company’s global supply chain.