The first eight rear crew have graduated from the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) at RAF Shawbury, Shropshire. The graduation, commemorated with a parade on May 17, marks an important milestone within the rotary element of the UK Military Flying Training System (MFTS).
At RAF Shawbury, MFTS is implemented via a contract with Ascent, which sub-contracts Airbus Helicopters. The fleet of 29 Juno HT1 (H135) and three Jupiter HT1 (H145) helicopters are fitted with glass cockpit technology and advanced touchscreen avionics. Ascent also provides infrastructure, including an Operational Support Building housing advanced training simulators, where the trainees learn many of their skills before the airborne phase.
Lance Corporal Lee Baker-Wilmot is one of the trainees who was awarded his Army Air Corps brevet. He said: “The course consisted of six weeks of ground school, which covered subjects such as principles of flight, aircraft technical subjects and meteorology. On completion, our training then focused on the Juno itself, covering the helicopter’s technical and operating capabilities. Our flying phase included voice marshalling, navigation, confined areas, underslung loads and mountain flying. The course was challenging, yet thoroughly enjoyable. It has been a real privilege to be one of the first trainees to graduate.”
The graduation ceremony was attended by friends and family, and brevets were awarded by the reviewing officer, AVM Warren James, Air Officer Commanding 22 Group. He said: “The first graduation of rear crew specialists is a major milestone in the UK MFTS programme. With the combination of the finest ground-based synthetic training and state-of-the-art equipment, our personnel are trained using the most modern technology of any armed service with a pattern of spiral development encouraging ongoing innovation and improvement as MFTS develops.”
Gp Capt Chris Mullen, station commander said: “I am extremely proud to see that the new training system and facilities at RAF Shawbury are producing personnel for the front line. The advances in ground-based training to augment the live flying is helping to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the training. We will shortly be operating at maximum capacity, ensuring that our personnel receive world-leading training before moving on to frontline units. Many congratulations to our graduates who have thoroughly earned the right to wear their brevets. Their families should be justifiably proud of this great achievement.”