Skip to main content

King Airs prove their worth on maritime patrols

Flying at No. 42 Squadron mostly consists of VIP transport, general transport, multi-engine training and air warfare officer training. But lately the team has been undertaking a new tasking.

16 August, 2023

With the early retirement of the P-3K2 Orion, there was going to be a gap in fisheries patrols around New Zealand that No. 42 Squadron was tasked to cover until the P-8A crews were fully trained and signed out to complete all tasks.

No. 42 Squadron qualified aircrew instructor and air warfare officer Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Tyler Ngapo said they had been conducting two fisheries patrols a month in the King Air 350, with each patrol taking about three to four flights over two days to complete.

“The King Air has a surface search radar and an electro-optic camera used for training air warfare officers – so using these for operations instead was a fairly easy transition.” 

“These have been all across New Zealand providing imagery and video recording of vessels in New Zealand waters, ensuring fishing vessels are compliant with all regulations.”

To stand up the new capability FLTLT Ngapo said was normally a long process, and as this was the first time the squadron had done this, there was a long risk-mitigation process that went into the decision.

“As we train air warfare officers (AWO) at No. 42 Squadron, who will be tactical co-ordinators on the P-8A Poseidon, we have maritime patrol procedures in place for training evolutions.

“It was mainly a rebrand from ‘training’ to ‘operational’ procedures with the air warfare officer instructors and old No. 5 Squadron air warfare specialists (AWS) operating the sensors and running the mission in the back.

“With the AWO and AWS both coming from a No. 5 Squadron background, we are very used to doing fisheries patrols around New Zealand.”

FLTLT Ngapo said the major differences between the King Air and the P-3K2 were endurance and speed.

“The P-3K2 was able to conduct patrols a lot further out than the King Air is, as we do not have fuel capacity to go out as far as they do.

“My longest flight on the P-3K2 was 10.4 hours, whereas on the King Air we only do maximum 3.5 hour flights due to fuel limitations.

“Additionally, the King Air doesn’t have a whole 14-person crew like the P-3K2, with only five members trying to achieve the same things, so each crew member picks up jobs that would normally be conducted by others.”

Aircraft size was another factor for the crew.

“You can’t stand up in a King Air, so the 3.5 hour flights are very tough on the crew, so we end up landing for lunch and going back out in the afternoon once we have a stretch out and refuel.”

FLTLT Ngapo said the King Air was a very capable aircraft and they had been able to achieve some great results.

“The fisheries patrols have meant some great corporate knowledge has been developed around the squadron and we now have a much better understanding of what maritime patrol looks like on the unit.”