Royal New Zealand Air Force's (RNZAF) Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Patrick Haybittle is keen to get to sea to help his helicopters fly, but as well as being a high-flyer above the waves, he may also be winging his way towards the Olympics in an emerging sport.
The 22-year-old is an avionics technician at No. 6 Squadron at Base Auckland, working on the SH-2G(I) helicopters.
“I joined knowing I would be getting leading class training and great experience working on aircraft,” he said.
“My father and great-grandad both served in the Air Force and always had great stories. Grandad was a pilot instructor during World War II and dad was an aircraft mechanic for eight years.”
His sister is Pilot Officer Carmen Haybittle, who is training to be a pilot with the RNZAF.
“I was already thinking about electrical work and so it made sense for me to have a crack at avionics.”
The highlight of his military career so far has been three weeks aboard the Offshore Patrol Vessel HMNZS Wellington, maintaining the Seasprite as the ship carried out fishing and immigration surveillance off the West Coast of the South Island.
And he wants to do more of that, but he also has one eye on the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“I’ve been windsurfing for about seven years and recently made the jump to foiling windsurfing,” he said.
Like the progression of America’s Cup sailing, foil windsurfing is essentially windsurfing with a hydrofoil lifting the board above the waves. They can reach speeds in excess of 30 knots.
“I am now in a development squad that is targeting the 2024 Olympics. It is great to still be able to pursue my passion,” LAC Haybittle said.
“The Defence Force is very supportive in allowing me time to train and compete, as well as time to work out during the week.”
He believes the Defence Force is a great place to learn a high-tech trade, and anyone who is thinking of joining should give it a shot.
“Why not consider working on aircraft? They have a lot of awesome systems to work on. The Defence Force is also a great place for life experience and comes with all the extras that come with being part of the military.”