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Farnborough – Airbus Helicopters mark 40 years as a training partner for British military pilots

The important role of Airbus Helicopters in the ab-initio training of British military rotary wing pilots is being marked by Airbus Helicopters during this week’s Farnborough Airshow.

During the past four decades, thousands of British crew members have earned their wings, trained on mission scenarios and honed their flying skills aboard aircraft designed by Airbus Helicopters.

The selection and flight training began with Airbus machines in the early 1970s, when single-engine Gazelles were first used by the Ministry of Defence, with the RAF Central Flying School at RAF Tern Hill in 1973. The Gazelle also played a role at the School of Army Aviation, at Middle Wallop, where it was used to train army pilots for many years.

RJH outside Gazelle MW - copyright Jock Hutchinson 1988

Lt Rupert Hibbert 16/5L in front of the 670 Squadron Army Air Corps hangar (R) and the Museum of Army Flying (L).

Since 1997, 38 AS350BB Ecureuils have been used as basic training aircraft by the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DFHS), based at Shawbury, Wales, where they have logged more than 350,000 flight hours to date with the UK armed forces.

This activity contributes to the steady supply of pilots needed to maintain the UK’s defence capability, with the DHFS providing output for all three of the country’s armed forces: Army, Air Force and Navy.

Worldwide, Airbus Helicopters brings its training expertise at the service of numerous armed forces. In Germany, a fleet of 14 EC135s operate with the German Army’s flying training school at Bückeburg, backed by more than 60 Airbus Helicopters maintenance personnel, successfully delivering over 70,000 flight hours with more than 99 percent availability for the school.
Helidax, the French Defence Flying School, utilises 36 EC120 rhelicopters with fully-digitised cockpits, consistently delivering over 580 hours per year per aircraft, with 54 Airbus Helicopters maintenance personnel ensuring 96 percent availability and low operating costs – providing excellent value to the customer.

Another training application for Airbus Helicopters-built aircraft is the Swiss Air Force helicopter school with 20 EC635s, featuring a modern glass cockpit. Completing 5,000 missions per year, the EC635 performs safely and reliably for its average 8,000 hours flown per year.

Further evidence of Airbus Helicopters’ training school output can be found at facilities the world over, including the Spanish Air Force Wing 78 Armilla, operating EC120s; the Japanese Navy with 15 EC135s; the Spanish Army flying 6 EC135s; the Indonesian Armed Forces operating 17 EC120s; and the Chinese Armed Forces, commanding 24 EC120/HC120, to name a few.

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