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February 3, 2011
FLOOD ASSIST 5
ESCAPES don't come much closer.
For 36SQN personnel arriving to
work at RAAF Base Amberley on the
morning of January 11, there was little
inclination of how that day would end.
MAJ Larry Gabe, a US Air Force
C-17A pilot on exchange posting with
36SQN, said personnel came in to work
prepared for just another day.
"The floods in Toowoomba were
on the news, but no one was expecting
Brisbane to flood," he said.
Poor weather dogged Amberley that
Tuesday as thunderstorms delayed the
loading of a C-17A which finally left
on a task for the Middle East at noon.
The waters around Amberley rose,
and notice was given for the base to
go to minimum staffing as the sew-
age treatment plant would have to be
As with much of Amberley, 36SQN
personnel were being sent home to
ensure their own homes and posses-
sions could be shored against flood
Likewise, HQ Air Lift Group and
86WG brought about a plan to send
available C-17As to either Brisbane or
Richmond, so that they could be tasked
over the coming days.
"By 2pm, Brisbane Airport said
'don't move the aircraft here, we might
get flooded'," MAJ Gabe said.
About 3pm, the remaining members
of 36SQN got ready to take the C-17As
Flood waters began creeping through-
out parts of Amberley.
MAJ Gabe piloted a C-17A out of
Amberley at 5pm as rising waters began
closing taxiways at Amberley. The sec-
ond aircraft got away at 6pm.
Co-piloting that second C-17A was
FLTLT David Whyte.
At that moment, his wife was being
assisted by 36SQN members who lived
in the same apartment complex in the
suburb of Toowong, moving their pos-
sessions to higher floors.
Three C-17As made it safely out of
Amberley. The fourth aircraft, requir-
ing extensive maintenance to fly, was
towed to higher ground.
Less than 12 hours after they came
to work, 36SQN members were at
Richmond with little more than their uni-
forms, left to watch the news and wait to
help in the relief efforts.
CO 36SQN WGCDR Paul Long
commended squadron personnel in
mobilising the aircraft.
"The standing water from the torren-
tial rain was going over the top of their
boots and they were saturated through.
Despite this, the maintainers managed
to ready four aircraft for flight and we
were able to evacuate three," WGCDR
"The last aircraft couldn't make it
out due to a significant unserviceabil-
ity but the guys were able to tow it to
higher ground just prior to the taxiway
"It was a very close-run thing but
the dedication of the squadron members
was selfless in that they put the environ-
mental hardship aside and did more than
asked to save the aircraft."
HAPPY TO HELP: MAJ Larry Gabe
who flew his C-17A out as flood
waters rose. Photo: LAC Chris Hall
INTO THE BEAST:
Above, an Army
boards a C-17A
at RAAF Base
Townsville. Photo: LAC
Left, a C-17A is
water on the 37SQN
handstand at RAAF
King Airs earn their keep
THE floods gave the King Air opera-
tors at 32SQN and 38SQN the chance
to show how vital their capability is to
CO 38SQN WGCDR Tony Thorpe
said the King Airs provided a useful
niche role for the ADF during the opera-
"The primary role was to trans-
port essential personnel and specialist
teams throughout the region and provide
access to airfields unsuitable for larger
aircraft," WGCDR Thorpe said.
Many of the tiny, regional airfields
throughout Queensland recorded intense
flying activity during the floods, becom-
ing their only link to the outside world.
Short runways, weak pavements and
long distances from the outside world
have proven the right fit for Air Force
King Airs during the floods.
"The tasking in support of the flood
relief highlights the flexibility and effec-
tiveness the aircraft provides in support
of operations," WGCDR Thorpe said.
The King Air effort began on New
Year's Eve with a call to 38SQN to sup-
port relief efforts the following day.
The New Year's tasking took relief
personnel from Townsville to Emerald,
Rockhampton and Gladstone.
Army's 5th Aviation Regiment, also
at RAAF Base Townsville, had sent
Black Hawks and Chinooks south to
provide relief. Backing them up, 38SQN
flew spare parts and Army Aviation per-
sonnel around the state.
The national focus on the disaster
soon grew. By January 7, 38SQN had
been called on to provide two King Airs,
and had flown the Governor-General,
Prime Minister and Commander Joint
Task Force 637 on separate tasks.
By January 14, three 38SQN King
Airs were operating around Queensland.
As well as transporting members of
Joint Task Force 637, they flew Mobile
Air Load Teams from 1 Airfield
Operations Support Squadron, instru-
mental in unloading C-130s carrying aid
around the state.
They also flew survey missions to
record flood levels and assess damage
from the waters.
The great escape
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