The Jetstream served as the RAF’s standard multi-engined pilot trainer for many years, and was the last aircraft of Handley Page design in RAF service, though a few still fly with the Royal Navy.
It was originally designed by Handley Page Limited as an executive light transport/feederliner and the HP137 Jetstream first flew at Radlett in August 1967, but after the company went into liquidation in August 1969 due to Jetstream development costs and poor sales, production transferred to Scottish Aviation Ltd at Prestwick.
In a contract dated August 1972, the Ministry of Defence ordered 26 Jetstream 201 T. Mk.1 aircraft (XX475 – XX500), similar to the civil Jetstream 200, as a Vickers Varsity replacement for training multi-engined pilots and navigators in the then Training Command.
The first RAF aircraft, XX475, a rebuilt Radlett built civil example, flew 13 April 1973, with the type entering service initially with the Central Flying School at RAF Little Rissington on 12 September 1973 for handling and operational trials, and with 5FTS at RAF Oakington in December 1973, though as defence cuts reduced the need for such aircrew, some were stored at RAF St Athan in 1974 and later passed to the Royal Navy.
This followed defence cuts which slashed the RAF transport fleet, which led to the end of multi-engine training by service aircraft in the RAF with the disbandment of 5 FTS in December 1974, despite the first advanced Jetstream pilot course only having commenced there in July 1974.
With the re-introduction of multi-engined training in the RAF, from November 1976 eight new-build aircraft returned to service with No 3 FTS at RAF Leeming, Yorks for instructor training, with the first actual student course commencing July 1977, and in April 1979 transferred to the Multi-Engined Training Squadron (METS) of No. 6 Flying Training School at RAF Finningley, and in August 1995 due to the closure of Finningley transferred to RAF Cranwell as No 3 FTS/45 (R) Squadron, by which time eleven were on strength there.
Ongoing problems of maintaining tired and aging airframes, necessitated their replacement by leasing seven contractor-owned, civil-registered but military operated Raytheon Beech King Air B200 aircraft in 2004.