Biplanes to Fast Jets: RAF Training Aircraft

The following exhibitions are available online only and are not on display at the Royal Air Force Museum.

Avro 504J


The Avro 504J is selected as the standard trainer because its performance is close to that of an operational aircraft. The De Havilland DH9A, Bristol Fighter and Vickers Vimy are all used in courses for conversion to operational flying.

The Armstrong Whitworth Siskin III and Armstrong Whitworth Atlas Trainer


The Armstrong Whitworth Siskin Mk. III fighter (top) is introduced to replace the old-fashioned DH9A and Bristol Fighter in the advanced portion of the Flying Training School course. It is joined by the Armstrong Whitworth Atlas Trainer (bottom) in 1927.

de Havilland Gipsy Moth


The de Havilland Gipsy Moth is brought in to provide the core of elementary training at the RAF College, the Central Flying School and 5 Flying Training School. 

de Havilland Tiger Moth


The de Havilland Tiger Moth is introduced to replace the de Havilland Gipsy Moth, which is considered to be too docile. It becomes the foremost elementary trainer throughout the Commonwealth because it is forgiving enough for initial training but challenging in more advanced manoeuvres.

Avro Tutor


The Avro Tutor is selected to replace the Avro 504N as the standard basic trainer after a series of trials against several other types.

Hawker Hart Trainer


The Hawker Hart Trainer takes over the advanced trainer role from the Armstrong Whitworth Atlas Trainer.

Miles Magister and Airspeed Oxford


The Miles Magister (top) and Airspeed Oxford (bottom) are introduced to provide elementary and twin-engine monoplane training in the run-up to war.

North American Harvard trainer


The North American Harvard trainer is brought in because of a delay in delivery of the Miles Master. It becomes one of the main advanced training aircraft during the Second World War.

Miles Master


The Miles Master is introduced to provide advanced monoplane training.

Hunting Percival Prentice


The Hunting Percival Prentice is brought in as an elementary trainer to replace the outdated Tiger Moth.

de Havilland Chipmunk


The de Havilland Chipmunk replaces the de Havilland Tiger Moth for training in the University Air Squadrons and Reserve Flying Schools.

Vickers Varsity


The Vickers Varsity is introduced as an all-purpose advanced trainer to bridge the gap between basic training and the Operational Conversion Units.


The Hunting Percival Prentice is now considered an unsuitable elementary trainer for the aircraft of the Fifties. The RAF decides to employ an energetic basic trainer followed by a docile jet trainer. The Hunting Percival Provost and the de Havilland Vampire are chosen.


Following a decision to go 'all jet', a turbine version of the Hunting Percival Provost, the Jet Provost, is introduced. This provides the bulk of RAF pilot training for the next three decades.

Folland Gnat


A two-seat training version of the Folland Gnat is chosen as a 'fast jet' trainer and remains in use until 1978.

Westland/Bell Sioux and Westland Whirlwind


An expansion in helicopter flying leads to the formation of a separate helicopter flying school, using the Westland/Bell Sioux as an elementary trainer. The Westland Whirlwind provides advanced helicopter training.

Beagle Bulldog and Westland Gazelle


The Beagle Bulldog is introduced to replace the de Havilland Chipmunk on the University Air Squadrons. In addition, a new basic helicopter trainer, the Westland Gazelle, is brought in.

Vickers Varsity, BAe Hawk and Westland Wessex


The Vickers Varsity is replaced by the Handley Page Jetstream for multi-engine training. The BAe Hawk is also introduced to take over from the Folland Gnat and to ease pressure on the Hunting Percival Jet Provost. The Westland Wessex replaces the Westland Whirlwind in the advanced helicopter training role.

Shorts Tucano


The Shorts Tucano replaces the Hunting Percival Jet Provost. It later becomes the basic jet trainer because of its jet-like handling capabilities and the fact it is fully aerobatic.

Slingsby Firefly


The Slingsby Firefly is introduced for use as a lead-in aircraft for multi-engine trainees because its side-by-side dual controls introduce pupils to dual-crew operations.

Westland Wessex and Eurocopter Squirrel


The Westland Wessex is replaced by the Bell Griffin in the advanced helicopter training role. At the same time, the Eurocopter Squirrel takes over as the basic helicopter trainer.

Grob Tutor


The Grob Tutor replaces the Beagle Bulldog for elementary flying training.

Beech King Air B209


The Beech King Air B209, the RAF’s newest trainer, is introduced as an advanced multi-engine trainer.


The Hawk T2 arrives with a 'glass' cockpit and comprehensive avionics suite to provide a realistic advanced training platform. 


The Grob 120TP Prefect T1 replaced the Tutor T1 in the elementary flying training Role with 57 Sqn at RAF College Cranwell.

The Airbus Helicopters H135 Juno HT1 provides the basic rotary wing training role with No.1 Flying Training School (1 FTS) at RAF Shawbury, the oldest military pilot training school in the world.


Embraer Phenom T1 is the Multi Engine Pilot Training aircraft that replaced the King Air B200. It is used for both Pilot, Mission Aircrew and Airborne Specialist training.


Beechcraft Texan T1 has taken over the basic fast jet training role previously fulfilled by the Tucano T1. Students progress onto the aircraft from the Prefect and move forwards to the Hawk T2.