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Former Hawera Woman First on Deck With Navy

29 May 2019

Kayla Mitchell grew up wanting to be an airline flight attendant, but today she’s directing helicopters to and from Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) vessels.

Petty Officer Writer Mitchell, originally from Hawera, is one of the newest qualified Flight Deck Officers of the RNZN, supervising the flight deck and coordinating helicopter arrivals, loading and departures.

This month she renewed her qualifications in the Hauraki Gulf with a day-long series of evaluations on HMNZS Canterbury with Royal New Zealand Air Force NH-90 and Seasprite SH2-G(I) helicopters.

It’s a skill on top of her usual role as Ship’s Writer, or Operational Administrator.

“The Ship’s Writer supports operations, the ship’s aims and capabilities,” Petty Officer Writer Mitchell said.

“Normally as Writers we tend to have extra duties assisting medics, or damage control teams. But being on the flight deck is another exciting way to do it.”

On the flight deck she receives permission from the bridge for the helicopter to land once the wind, pitch and roll of the ship have been assessed. Personnel are able to approach the helicopter only under her direction.

“I’m like the intermediate person between the ship and the helicopter,” she said. “My job is to manage the safe conduct of all aviation activities. I’m the first one on the deck and the last one off.

“It’s a really good role – you are trained to a very high standard.”

Petty Officer Writer Mitchell joined the RNZN in 2005 straight from school and has since seen a lot of world, particularly with deployments on the Anzac frigates across the Pacific.

“I’ve grown up in the Navy,” she said. “I was 17 when I joined – this is my life. I’ve already had an amazing career and there are so many more opportunities in the Navy.”

She hopes to have a recruiting role one day.

“My recruiter made me believe I was getting the best career on the planet. I want to do the same, because honestly there’s no other job like it.”

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