Helicopter Display Team

The 723 Squadron Helicopter Display Team was formed out of a need to showcase naval aviation to the public through recognised events and as such offers significant public relations, public information and promotional opportunities for the Australian Defence Force and the Royal Australian Navy in particular. Events include airshows, open days as well as public events of significance.

Whilst there have been many single helicopter displays from various types flown in the past, 723 Squadron saw this as an opportunity to develop a Pairs Display flying AS350BA Squirrel helicopters. The precision flying display was developed and based upon the Royal Navy's Black Cats Lynx helicopter display, and was incorporated into the Squadron Flying orders.

723 Squadron helicopter display team, of AS350BA Squirrel helicopters, perform their signature pairs aerobatic display.
723 Squadron helicopter display team, of AS350BA Squirrel helicopters, perform their signature pairs aerobatic display.

This display was flown by two Qualified Helicopter Instructors (QHI's) with another Aircrew member performing co-pilot duties throughout the display. The duties performed by the co-pilots are not unlike that of a rally drivers navigator, calling the sequence of manoeuvres for the pilot. Co-pilots also assisted in keeping the other aircraft sighted and checking the engine instruments during the display.

The 723 Squadron Helicopter Display team has performed at many major airshows and open days throughout Australia since its inception, including the Australian International Airshow at Avalon, Australia Day displays in Sydney, Skyfire in Canberra, Temora Aviation Museum open days, the RAAF/ADF airshows, the HMAS Albatross open days to name a few.

Prior to being approved for public display the display team conducted months of training and work-ups. Initially starting with one aircraft flying the routine. Once the QHI's were familiar with the routine a second aircraft was added, and the sequence was slowly built into the current display. Final approval for public viewing was given by the then COMAUSNAVAIRGRP, CDRE Geoff Ledger, during a display at Nowra. Once public display approval had been given, the team had conducted a minimum of 50 practices.

The Helicopter Display Team rehearse their routine over the water of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra for Skyfire 2012.
The Helicopter Display Team rehearse their routine over the water of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra for Skyfire 2012.

When the display team were tasked to perform at a venue, the Squadron would usually deploy with three aircraft (2 + 1 spare) and a team of maintainers. Of these maintainers one was a Chief Petty Officer Responsible Engineering Officer (CPO REO), responsible for ensuring that the aircraft were ready for the display. Without the combined efforts of the maintenance personnel and the aircrew, the display would not have been possible.

The 723 Squadron display team always strove to put on a professional, polished display that reflected positively upon the Fleet Air Arm. With excellent reviews from many airshows the Squirrel Display was amongst the premier displays in Australia.

The Helicopter Display Team was stood down in 2017 following the retirement of the AS350BA Squirrel helicopter on 1 December 2017.