Royal New Zealand Air Force helicopter crews have delivered nearly two tonnes of books and school supplies to schools in the Yasawa group of islands in Fiji.
The books were delivered on behalf of the Fiji Ministry of Education and came amid the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) Operation Mahi Tahi, where nearly 300 personnel are using the HMNZS Canterbury as a “Pacific Ocean lily pad” to carry out humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training and other tasks.
Flight Lieutenant Glenn Blay was the captain of one of the NH90 helicopters involved in the education drop.
“We had three aircraft go up to the Yasawa Islands, two NH90s and an A109, dropping off school books. We went to Naviti District School where they were all keen to see us. The boys got out and played some footy and we had some photographs taken,” he said.
Some members of Royal New Zealand Air Force No. 3 Squadron will now return to New Zealand and be replaced by other crew who will conduct their training during the second half of the operation.
“To be honest to do that as our last flight was pretty epic, a great way to finish our trip here in Fiji,” Flight Lieutenant Blay said.
Without NZDF assistance, the books and supplies would have to be delivered by small boat, which would have proved difficult in recent weather.
Fiji Education Ministry Education Officer, Naipolione Locoloco said they were grateful the RNZAF could deliver the 70 cartons of text and library books.
“The schools are scattered across the Yasawa Islands and given the weather over the last few weeks it would have been impossible to take the books across. I was delighted to see the faces of the students when they received these cartons,” he said.
Over the last week, No 3. Squadron has practised flying in tropical conditions from both ship and shore, No. 230 Squadron has established high-frequency communications sites and New Zealand Army personnel have been practising amphibious landings.
No. 3 Squadron detachment commander, Squadron Leader Andrew Scrase, said flying in tropical conditions and engaging with the Fijians and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces had provided a great opportunity to improve their skills and train in different terrain and climates to New Zealand.
“Over the last week we’ve been able to complete 37 hours of flying, giving our crews some really useful experience in operating in a tropical environment.
“We were also able to spend some eight hours flying with HMNZS Canterbury to practise ship operations, which allowed us to qualify two new pilots and maintain skills for another four,” he said.