A Brief History of No 6 FLYING TRAINING SCHOOL
No 6 Flying Training School (6 FTS) has a long history dating back to May 1920 when it was initially established at RAF Spitalgate near Grantham operating the Avro 504K. The school moved to RAF Manston in Kent the following year where it remained for only 6 months before being disbanded in the drastic Service cuts of 1922. With tensions in Europe rising, the expansion of the Royal Air Force in 1935 saw 6 FTS re-form at Netheravon in Wiltshire as a basic flying training school equipped with Avro Tutors. In 1938 the school re-located to RAF Little Rissington where it would remain until March 1947. A basic school flying Ansons and Oxfords for the early part of the Second World War, 6FTS changed both its role and name in April 1942. Renamed No 6 Pilots’ Advanced Flying Unit its task was to complete the training of pilots trained initially in Canada and, as such, it passed out over 5000 pilots before the end of the War.
6FTS reverted to a peacetime flying school in December 1945 and 2 years later it moved yet again, this time to Tern Hill in Shropshire with a task of training pilots on piston engined aircraft, initially on Tiger Moths and Harvards, then on to Prentices and Balliols and, later, on the Piston Provost. This phase ended in August 1961 when a move to Acklington in Northumberland coincided with the phasing in of the Jet provost as the basic trainer for the Royal Air Force. Referred to as No 6(Advanced) FTS, the unit continued operations here until it disbanded in June 1968.
The next long phase began in May 1970 when 6 FTS re-formed at RAF Finningley (now Doncaser Sheffield Airport) to become the RAF’s centre for initial Navigator and non-commissioned aircrew training. Initially equipped with Varsities, shortly followed by Dominies and Jet Provosts, the unit later added the Bulldog, Tucano and Hawk to its inventory. In 1976 the Varsity was retired as the workhorse for navigator training to be replaced by the Jetstream, which was also operated by No 45 (Reserve) Squadron for advanced multi-engined pilot training. 6FTS disbanded once again on the closure of Finningley in 1996.
After lying dormant for nearly 20 years, 6 FTS re-formed at RAFC Cranwell on 7 September 2015 to take command and control of the 15 University Air Squadrons and their embedded Air Experience Flights operating the Grob 115E Tutor. Its role is now to attract high-calibre applicants into RAF service through the provision of flying experience and training, to prepare undergraduates for RAF selection, to influence future leaders so they become advocates for the RAF and sympathetic to the needs of Defence, and to communicate a positive image of the RAF and Defence to universities and local communities. On 1 April 2017 control of the Babcock International PLC Light Aircraft Flying Contract to operate the Tutor transferred to 6 FTS when 3 FTS began its move into a new era as part of the integrated UK Military Flying Training System.