A few notes on the Tobruk trials by Rob Haylock:
Before the planned self-deploying PNG trip, we had to do some training with the HMAS Tobruk, a Landing Ship Transport, LST, and at the time, the Flagship of the Navy. We took 2 choppers and flew to the Tobruk, just outside Moreton Bay and sailing towards Rockhampton for an exercise. First up, I had some mutual landing practice with John Woodman, taking turns to do the landings to the back deck and to the middle deck. We did the landings both day and night, and we trained the junior pilots as well. We spent the night on the ship, though I don’t remember much about it, other than being very noisy, with engine noise rattling the metal walls.
Next day, we practiced external loads to both decks, and then we were joined by a Chinook from 12 Squadron, and 2 Kiowas from the Army. Then the fun started. The Chinook, parked on the middle deck, had a maintenance problem and had to stay there. A Kiowa landed on the rear deck to refuel, and the fuel pump on the ship failed – he was stuck there too. Our 2 Hueys were soon to be needing fuel as well, so we just hung around, shooting dummy approaches to the side of the ship. The fuel flowed again, but then the Kiowa couldn’t start his engine! Things were now looking tight – we would have to leave immediately for land if there was no parking spot. The ship’s crew was thinking of tossing the Kiowa off the side, when he suddenly started up. The second Kiowa was squeezed onto the middle deck behind the Chinook – he was safe for the moment. The first Kiowa took off, and one Huey landed, taking on just enough fuel to stay airborne for another 15 minutes, while the second Huey landed and filled up – then the first one landed and took on a full load. Very close. We finished our training, and flew back to Amberley.