Flying a helicopter is challenging and very different from a pilot's elementary training on the Grob Tutor. RAF helicopter pupils must learn additional skills such as crew management and basic search and rescue before they gain their Pilot's Wings. The helicopter course is a mix of flying training and ground school instruction, including time spent on a Griffin simulator. As well as gaining flying skills helicopter pupils also take survival and leadership courses.
All helicopter training is carried out at the Defence Helicopter Flying School, RAF Shawbury, which provides instruction for pupils from all three Services using the the Bell Griffin HT1 and Eurocopter Squirrel HT1. There are three units based there which deal with different phases of helicopter training:
660 Squadron for basic single engine training
705 Squadron for advanced single engine training
60 (R) Squadron for multi-engine training
SARTU, based at RAF Valley, carries out search and rescue training.
Once helicopter pilots receive their Wings they graduate to an Operational Conversion Unit where they will be trained up on one of the five types of helicopter currently in RAF service.
Single-Engine Basic and Advanced
Initial flying training teaches basic rotary wing skills and emergency handing, culminating in a first solo and handling check.
Advanced training is where basic skills are consolidated and developed into applied techniques:
- Non-procedural instrument flying
- Basic night flying
- Low-level flying
- Formation flying
- Mountain flying
Multi-Engine Advanced with Search and Rescue
- General handling
- Load carrying
- Night vision goggle training
- low flying navigation
In addition, pupils receive an introduction to tactical deployment, including operating from confined areas.
A short Search and rescue course provides training in mountain flying and maritime rescue winching. Students moving onto SAR duties complete an extended SAR course before going to a Sea King conversion unit.