As the world held its breath waiting for news of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Flying Officer Vivienne Clark was at the forefront of the search effort as a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) liaison officer to the Chinese military. Due to her native Chinese linguistics skills, Clark was deployed from Sydney to Perth to work as a liaison officer and translator with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Air Force.
Operation Southern Indian Ocean was initiated in support of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)-led search for MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean. Six countries participated in the search, including the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Air Force.
Thirty-three year old Flying Officer Clark normally works as a personnel capability officer at Headquarters Air Command at RAAF Base Glenbrook in Sydney’s west. She was born in China and moved to Australia in 2005, joining the Air Force three years later.
“It was a real challenge being involved in news conferences and doing simultaneous translations, but everyone was so supportive and lovely. It was a great experience”, Flying Officer Clark said.
During the initial stages of the search, Flying Officer Clark’s day began in the early hours of the morning. By 2am she was up and translating the Chinese crew’s mission briefing before boarding their 3am flight. After nine hours flying over the Indian Ocean, there were post-flight briefings and AMSA updates to translate. With the addition of a few Chinese media and VIP escort duties, Flying Officer Clark’s days were full!
“I have never worked so hard in my entire life, but it was an amazing and unique experience and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to be involved”, she said.
It was Clark’s first time on a Chinese military aircraft and she had nothing but praise for the Chinese detachment. In a happy coincidence, she discovered that she and the Chinese Senior Colonel come from the same home town in China.
Flying Officer Clark was instrumental in setting up the Chinese detachment at Perth International Airport, the temporary home for the two massive Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft. It was the first time the Chinese military had operated in Australian airspace and Flying Officer Clark was involved in negotiating logistics such as aircraft parking and refuelling.“In years to come, when the mystery is finally solved, I’ll be able to say that I was a part of it. I love my job!” she said.