Defence Helicopter Flying School

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The Defence Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury, a Royal Air Force station near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, trains aircrew from all three of the Armed Forces.

The school's Eurocopter AS.350BB Squirrel HT1
The school's Bell 412EP Griffin HT1
Another view of the Bell 412EP Griffin HT1 as it hover taxis to the runway at RIAT 2010


The DHFS has three flying squadrons:

Squadron Branch Aircraft Role Notes
660 Squadron AAC Army Eurocopter Squirrel HT.1 Basic helicopter flying training Provide training to pilots of all three services;
squadrons take alternate intakes
705 NAS Royal Navy
60 (R) Squadron RAF Bell Griffin HT.1 Advanced helicopter flying training Provides training to RAF and some RN crews
202 (R) Squadron Maritime/Mountain flying skills training/SARTU Provides training to RAF and RN crews


Training is undertaken on the Squirrel HT1 and for the Royal Air Force students the Griffin HT1 (a twin engine modern version of the famous "Huey" helicopter). Training is typically 6 months for the Army and Navy, as students then move to their advanced single-service training, and 18 months for the RAF.

In addition, Search and Rescue training for all RAF aircrew takes place at RAF Valley on the Search and Rescue Training Unit (SARTU)

All aircrew instruction is carried out by Central Flying School (Helicopters) (CFS(H)) Instructors. These Instructors are a mix of military personnel and 40% Cobham CFS(H) accredited contractor personnel.[1]

Helicopters and Synthetic Training Equipment[edit]

All the Defence Helicopter Flying School Helicopters and Synthetic Training Equipment are owned by Cobham Aviation Services - Helicopter Services (formerly FB Heliservices), who provide 40% of the instructional staff, all the ground school and simulator staff, carry out all maintenance and provide support services. [1]


In October 1996 a contract was placed with FBS, a company formed between Flight Refuelling Aviation, Bristows Helicopters Ltd and SERCo. This 15-year contract not only covered the engineering and supply aspects already in place, but also included the provision of the 35 Squirrel and Griffin helicopters for the Defence Helicopter Flying School at Shawbury. In practice, FBS now sub-contracts the support of the DHFS and RAF Shawbury to FB Heli Services (formerly FR Aviation Services) thus maintaining the partnership between the company and RAF Shawbury forged over the 5 years previous to that contract. Also included in the contract was the provision of 40% of the helicopter instructors, Operations Support staff and Flight Systems Operators in the Central Air Traffic Control School.[1]

In 2012, Cobham was awarded a £193m four-year contract to provide helicopter flying training at RAF Shawbury, RAF Valley and AAC Middle Wallop, together with support services at RAF Shawbury and AAC Middle Wallop. The contract extended the previously existing Defence Helicopter Flying School and support services contract, which had been undertaken by FBS Ltd and FB Heliservices Ltd for the previous 15 years.[2] At RAF Shawbury, Cobham is currently responsible for the majority of the base and operational services, which support ongoing operational activities.[3]

In September 2014, it was announced that a new contractor was being sought to run the UK's helicopter training organisation to replace the existing operation at RAF Shawbury. The new Rotary Wing Training Programme (part of the UK Military Flying Training System) is to replace the current Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) outsourcing contract, which has been in place since 1997. The MoD anticipated selecting the winning bid in 2016, with the new service to become operational in 2018.[4][5]

This contract, which will take the training programme into 2033, was awarded in May 2016. As part of this, a £9.5M contract was awarded to Briggs and Forrester Engineering Services Ltd to provide mechanical, electrical and public health systems on the project at both Shawbury and Middle Wallop.[6]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

On 9 August 2016, a Bell Griffin HT-1 caught fire after making an emergency landing on top of Yr Aran, Wales following a technical problem. All four crew exited safely.[7]

Notable graduates[edit]


  1. ^ a b c RAF Shawbury: Contractors
  2. ^ Cobham's FB Heliservices wins £193m MoD contract
  3. ^ Military Base Turn-key Solutions
  4. ^ UK seeks new contractor for helicopter training
  5. ^ UK MoD begins training helicopter acquisition
  6. ^ "£9.5m RAF Contract For Training Base, Deal hailed as 'fantastic news' for future of military aircrew in county". Shropshire Star. 26 August 2016. p. 1. Report by Thom Kennedy.
  7. ^ "RAF helicopter fire on Snowdonia peak after technical problem". BBC News. 9 August 2016. 
  8. ^ "Space ace Tim's early grounding at RAF Shawbury". Shropshire Star. 16 December 2015. p. 1. 
  9. ^ Bonnett, Tom (15 January 2010). "Royal Heir Force: Prince's Career Takes Off". Sky News. Retrieved 16 January 2010. 
  10. ^ "Princes enjoy RAF Shawbury". BBC. June 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°47′31″N 2°39′54″W / 52.792°N 2.665°W / 52.792; -2.665