History of No 1 FTS
A BRIEF HISTORY OF No 1 FLYING TRAINING SCHOOL
The ‘Trenchard memorandum’ on the future organization of the Royal Air Force, which was presented to Parliament in December 1919, included a requirement to establish 6 ‘training wings’ by 1922-23. The first of these, then known as the Netheravon Flying School, had already been formed on 29 July 1919 at Netheravon on Salisbury Plain. It was this unit which, appropriately, was renamed No 1 Flying Training School on 23 December 1919.
It was not until March 1921 that the first ab-initio course of short-service RAF officers assembled at Netheravon for a course lasting around a year. During the ‘junior term’, pupils received instruction on the rotary-engined Avro 504K, moving on to ‘Service types’ such as the DH9A and Bristol Fighter during the ‘senior term’. No 1 Naval Pilots Course, comprising 51 Naval and 9 Royal Marine officers, assembled on 16 June 1924. This course lasted 6 months, after which the trainees moved to Gosport or Leuchars to complete advanced training on aircraft types used by the Fleet Air Arm. Thereafter, training of RAF officers and airman pilots continued alongside the Naval Pilots Courses. In early 1928, training of pilots for the Fleet Air Arm was transferred to RAF Training Base Leuchars. Also in 1928, the old Avro 504Ks were replaced by the improved Avro 504N, and the DH9As were replaced by new Armstrong Whitworth Atlas aircraft. However, the British Government’s policy of disarmament and retrenchment in public expenditure led to the disbanding of No 1 Flying Training School with effect from 1 February 1931.
On 1 April 1935, No 1 Flying Training School again came into existence by the simple expedient of re-naming RAF Training Base Leuchars. The School continued to provide ab-initio pilot training for Naval and Royal Marine officers and also for small numbers of Army officers who were destined for the RAF’s army co-operation squadrons, using the Avro 504N, soon replaced by the Avro Tutor, and the Hawker Hart, Osprey and Nimrod. Training was also given in deck-landing and launching by catapult. The School also provided short conversion courses to RAF pilots who were posted to the Fleet Air Arm. In August 1938, the School moved back to its original home of Netheravon.
In summer 1939, the School was partly re-equipped with the Harvard and, on the outbreak of war, was re-titled ‘No 1 Service Flying Training School’. During 1940, the Battle ‘Trainer’, a two-seat adaptation of the basic Battle light bomber, replaced the Harvard for training the fighter pilots required by the Fleet Air Arm. The School was progressively expanded until, in October 1940, the student establishment reached 200, generating a flying task of around 4000 hours per month. In July 1941, the Unit started to re-equip with the Miles Master III. However, time was running out for the School’s tenure of Netheravon. The vast majority of flying training was being moved to safer skies overseas, and Netheravon was needed for airborne forces units. Thus the training task at Netheravon was wound down and the School disbanded on 7 March 1942.
No 1 Flying Training School made a brief reappearance in 1947, when No 17 Flying Training School at Spitalgate, equipped with the Harvard T2, was renamed. The first course to graduate comprised 21 Dutch cadets, who received their wings from HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands at a Passing-Out Parade on 24 September 1947. However, due to changes in policy, the School was disbanded again in February 1948.
No 1 Flying Training School was reformed on 1 December 1950 at Oakington, near Cambridge and equipped with the Harvard T2 to provide refresher courses to re-entrant pilots. It subsequently also trained ex-UAS cadets, as well as RAFVR and National Service pilots. By July 1951, the pupil population had grown to around 140. However, Oakington was needed for a jet advanced flying school, so No 1 Flying Training School moved to Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire in October1951. In 1952 the unit became responsible for ‘all through’ training of regular direct-entrant pupil pilots using the Percival Prentice T1 and the Harvard T2. This came to an end when the School was disbanded on 20 April 1955. However, No 1 Flying Training School was reformed only 10 days later on 1 May 1955 when No 22 Flying Training School at Syerston in Nottinghamshire was re-numbered. The new No 1 Flying Training School was equipped with the Percival Provost T1 and was responsible for the basic stage of flying training for Royal Navy and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) pilots. The successful pupils proceeded to No 7 Flying Training School at Valley for advanced training on jets. The training of RNVR pilots was terminated in January 1957.
In October 1957, No 1 Flying Training School moved to Linton-on-Ouse, where it was joined in January 1958 by a squadron of Vampires from Valley to provide ‘all-through’ training of Naval fixed-wing pilots to ‘wings’ standard. The Provost T1 was replaced from October 1960 by the Jet Provost T3 and, later, the Jet Provost T4. A squadron of Chipmunk T10 was added to provide elementary training of Navy helicopter pilots. Latterly, the Vampires were used for training RAF and Foreign & Commonwealth students, before being transferred to No 7 Flying Training School at Church Fenton in 1966. Following the cancellation in 1966 of the Navy’s replacement fixed-wing carriers, Naval fixed-wing pilot training was run down and in November 1967 No 1 Flying Training School once again started to provide basic flying training for RAF pilots. The last Naval fixed-wing course graduated in July 1969. Later that year, the Chipmunk training was also transferred to Church Fenton. The ab-initio training of Naval fixed-wing pilots did not recommence until 1976, when three Royal Navy students completed the Jet Provost course at No 1 FTS and received their ‘wings’.
The Jet Provost T5 replaced the Jet Provost T4 from 1970. In 1984, control of the Royal Navy Elementary Flying Training Squadron at Topcliffe, equipped with the Bulldog T1, was transferred to No1 Flying Training School. In 1985, Messrs Airwork Ltd took over responsibility for engineering and supply functions at Linton-on-Ouse in place of RAF personnel; this contract is currently held by Babcock. The first Tucano course started the flying phase in January 1993 and the last Jet Provost course graduated in June of that year. In July 1993, the Royal Navy Elementary Flying Training Squadron at Topcliffe closed, its task transferred to the contractor-run Joint Elementary Flying Training Squadron. However, from 1995 the Government’s Defence Cost Study ‘Front Line First’ led to substantial changes. The Joint Elementary Flying Training Squadron moved from Topcliffe to Barkston Heath in April 1995, while later that year, the Tucano elements of the Central Flying School from Scampton and No 6 Flying Training School from Finningley were transferred to No 1 Flying Training School. From 1996, the basic pilot training task hitherto carried out on the Tucano at Cranwell and Linton-on-Ouse was amalgamated at No 1 Flying Training School, which thus became the sole RAF operator of the Tucano. In 2002, the two basic pilot training squadrons at Linton-on-Ouse were awarded reserve squadron status as No 72 (Reserve) Squadron and No 207 (Reserve) Squadron. In 2007, the Tucano Air Navigation Squadron followed suit to become No 76 (Reserve) Squadron. In the early part of 2008, No 1 FTS played host to HRH Prince William, who undertook a period of flying on the Tucano with No 227 Course as part of a tailored course leading to the award of his ‘wings’.
The conclusions of the Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, which were announced by the Prime Minister in October 2010, had a major impact on the training of pilots and weapons system operators, with the decisions to withdraw the RAF and Royal Navy Harrier fleet, cancel the procurement of the Nimrod MRA4, and reduce the RAF Tornado GR4 fleet by two squadrons This led to the ending of weapons system operator training and disbanding of No 76 (Reserve) Squadron in May 2011, and a considerable reduction in the number of student pilots undertaking basic fast-jet training on the Tucano, leading to the disbanding of No 207 (Reserve) Squadron in January 2012. Today, the role of No 1 Flying Training School is to provide basic fast-jet pilot training for Royal Navy, RAF and Foreign & Commonwealth students in preparation for advanced training on the Hawk at RAF Valley, and refresher and instructor training for qualified RAF and Royal Navy pilots. In addition to the airfield at Linton-on-Ouse, No 1 FTS operates relief landing grounds at Dishforth and Topcliffe.