Future fighter pilots train in Tamworth’s skies

JETS TAKE OVER: Exercise Southern Lights with RAAF Hawk 127 Lead-In Fighter pilot training in Tamworth with Pilot Officer Kester Fong, Squadron Leader Jay Tuffrey and Flying Officer Nathan Segal. Photo: Barry Smith 060814BSD05

JETS TAKE OVER: Exercise Southern Lights with RAAF Hawk 127 Lead-In Fighter pilot training in Tamworth with Pilot Officer Kester Fong, Squadron Leader Jay Tuffrey and Flying Officer Nathan Segal. Photo: Barry Smith 060814BSD05

THE RAAF has again chosen Tamworth Regional Airport as the base for training future fighter pilots for the next month.

Exercise Southern Lights will mean more air traffic over Tamworth and the Liverpool Plains as jet pilots in training practise dogfights and air-to-ground missions.

The exercise involves about 50 RAAF personnel and five Hawk 127 Lead-In-Fighters who began training in the region on Monday and will be here from 76 Squadron at Williamtown until August 29.

Flying Officer Nathan Segal has come full circle in his pilot training.

He began his basic flying training in Tamworth at the Australian Defence Force Basic Flying Training School in January 2012 and two-and-a-half years later he has returned as a fighter pilot in training for the month-long Exercise Southern Lights. 

Flying Officer Segal said he had always wanted to be a pilot, but it was not until halfway through Year 12 that he decided to go the military path.

He said it was a great experience to return to where he trained initially.

“Tamworth is very close to Williamtown in flying time and all the facilities are here,” Flying Officer Segal said.

“We have a good relationship with BFTS and it’s a good experience for everyone to deploy away from their home base for a few weeks.  

“We are really keen to get as many pilots as we can through the course.

 “ When I was here, I got to see the Hawks come past and I thought, ‘I could be doing that’. You talk to the guys who are not too far from doing that.”

BFTS student Pilot Officer Kester Fong said the visit was “pure motivation”.

“Getting through is pretty hard and some days you wonder if it’s ever going to end,” he said.

“Seeing Nate (Flying Officer Segal) where he is, he was three years ahead of me at ADFA, gives you confidence in knowing you can do it, too.”

Flying instructor Squadron Leader Jay Tuffrey said a lot of students felt like it was impossible to get through the course, but this visit was “awesome motivation”.

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