A total of 22 tri-service aircrew graduated from the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) at RAF Shawbury, Shropshire, on August 23. A parade celebrated both the graduation of the first 13 pilots to complete their training within the Rotary Wing UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) as well as the graduation of nine more helicopter rear crew. With this, the UKMFTS was able to declare Interim Course Capability (ICC).
Since April 1 last year, the rotary-wing element of the UKMFTS enterprise at RAF Shawbury has been delivered via a contract with Ascent, who sub-contract to Airbus Helicopters. A fleet of 29 Juno HT1 (H135) and three HT1 Jupiter (H145) helicopters fitted with glass cockpit technology and touchscreen avionics support the flying training. Ascent has also provided new infrastructure, including an Operational Support Building housing advanced Flying Training Devices (FTD), where the trainees learn many of their skills before getting airborne.
AM Andrew Turner, deputy commander of the RAF said: “I am delighted to declare ICC for MFTS here at Shawbury today. The training system is state of the art, world-leading and absolutely fit to prepare Royal Navy, army and Royal Air Force helicopter aircrew for the challenges that they will face at the front line, at home and around the world. This milestone represents years of committed and dedicated work by Defence and Ascent Flight Training, that everybody should be rightly very proud of. There is much more to be done, but this is another big day for MFTS.”
Capt Craig Carter (AAC), one of the trainee pilots who graduated and will now transition on to the Apache helicopter said: “From a trainee’s perspective, flying the Juno is a huge step forward; these modern helicopters with glass cockpit technology are much closer to what we will fly on the front line and we have benefitted greatly from this world-leading technology.”
Flt Lt Jamie Johnson added: “The course has been challenging and rewarding throughout. The availability of the state-of-the-art infrastructure such as the Flying Training Devices, in addition to the Juno and Jupiter has made the whole process slicker and will undoubtedly better prepare aircrew for the front line.”
The Managing Director of Ascent Flight Training, Mr Tim James said: “Ascent Flight Training is proud to play our part in the UK Military’s flying training system here at RAF Shawbury, where we train and prepare the next generation of helicopter aircrew for active frontline service with the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and UK Army. Ascent would like to recognise the partnership at RAF Shawbury between the MOD and Ascent Flight Training with the full support of our industry partners Lockheed Martin, Babcock International, Airbus UK and CAE. Congratulations and good luck to those trainees who are graduating today, and we wish them the very best in their future front line military careers.”
Gp Capt Chris Mullen is the station commander and commandant of the DHFS. He said: “Today marks a significant step as we graduate the first pilots to the front line and celebrate the second graduation of rear crew from the redesigned RW training system under MFTS. This success is due to the collaborative partnership between the MOD and our defence partners. I would like to congratulate all the graduates today as they move on to the next stage of their career with their respective services, flying the Apache, Wildcat, Chinook and Puma helicopters.”