The Chinook Display Team are carefully selected for their roles, having all displayed skill at flying alongside high levels of commitment to the Chinook Force.
From Left to Right:
Captain – Flt Lt Jim Hobkirk
Jim is 3rd generation RAF; his father was a Support Helicopter Pilot. He was educated at Stamford School in Lincolnshire. Jim Commissioned into the RAF in 1989 straight from A Levels; he went onto complete flying training on the Jet Provost, Gazelle and Wessex before gaining his wings in 1991 at RAF Shawbury. He completed tours on the Wessex, as a Mobile Air Operations Team leader and Chinook, based at RAF Aldergrove, Benson & Odiham respectively. Completing Qualified Helicopter Instructor (QHI) training in 2002 he has instructed on Griffin, Chinook HC2,3,4,5,6,6a, AW109E and Squirrel, serving at RAF Shawbury, Odiham, Benson & Northolt. He has also examined on most types in the British military inventory & others for civilian or foreign nations. He is currently serving on 18(B) Sqn as Dep OC the Training Development and Standards Flight, as the only A1 QHI on the RAF front-line. With nearly 3000 hours on Chinook, and 8000 hours total Jim is one of the most experienced pilots in the RAF SH force today.
Jim’s 34 year career has taken him around the globe; he has seen operational service in Northern Ireland, the Falkland Islands, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Afghanistan & Mali. He has also been on exercise in Turkey, Norway, South Africa, Malaysia, Oman, USA and throughout Europe & the Mediterranean.
Weapons System Operator – Sgt Steve Shaw
Steve grew up on the edge of the Peak District, where he would often watch Chinooks fly low through The Derwent Valley before joining the Air Force in 2008 as an Armourer. Initially working in support of the Tornado GR4 at Marham, he converted to aircrew in 2015. Arriving at Odiham in 2018 after following the traditional Rotary Wing flying training path through Cranwell and Shawbury, he was posted to B flight of 18 squadron, realising a childhood ambition to fly for a living.
He was deployed to the Falklands as an Armourer before taking part on Operations in Mali and other theatres with the Chinook Force.
Co-Pilot – Flt Lt Jamie Johnson
JJ was born in Cyprus before moving back to the UK in 1993. JJ attended school in Derby before studying politics at the University of Leicester. Whilst there, he was a member of the East Midlands Universities Air Squadron, which enabled a swift entry to the RAF in 2014. In 2019 JJ was ‘streamed’ to the Chinook, completing his Operational Conversion Unit course in 2020 before a posting to 18(B) Sqn at RAF Odiham.
During his first two years on the Squadron, JJ has accrued 500 hours Chinook with deployments to Mali, Lithuania and Estonia and overseas training exercises in the USA and North Macedonia. In and around display preparation, JJ is working fastidiously towards achieving his upgrade to front line captain.
Weapons System Operator – Sgt David Bussey
Dave joined the RAF in 2008 as a direct entrant Weapons Systems Operator to begin flying training. As a result of delays in training and holds between courses, he temporarily rebranched and qualified as an Air Traffic Controller. Following short tours at RAF St Athan and RAF Northolt, he returned to flying training in 2014. On award of his brevet in 2016, he was posted to the Chinook Operational Conversion Unit on 28(AC) Sqn, and then onto 18(B) Sqn.
To date, Dave has over 1300 hours flying on Chinook and deployed on multiple operations around the world, including to the Middle East, twice to Mali and to the Caribbean in support of Op Ruman in 2017. He has also taken part in exercises in the US, mainland Europe and in the Mediterranean while embarked on HMS Ocean. He is a qualified Crewman Trainer, as well as an instructor in both maritime and urban survival.
Co-Pilot – Flt Lt Ian Cooper
Coops, originally from Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, joined the RAF in May 2007 as a Weapons System Operator (WSOp). After completing generic WSOp training at RAF Cranwell he was streamed as an Electronic Operator on the Nimrod MR2. This role saw him utilise the aircraft’s RADAR and other electronic equipment to conduct maritime surveillance to protect UK territorial waters. Following the Nimrod’s early withdrawal from service Coops commissioned in 2011 at the RAF College Cranwell, commencing elementary flying training as a pilot on the Grob Tutor at Cranwell and later RAF Shawbury on the Squirrel and Griffin. He was presented with his pilot wings on completion of rotary training in August 2016.
Upon completion of the Chinook Operational Conversion course in Sep 18 he was posted to 18(B)Sqn. Coops has more than 900 hours on Chinooks which has seen him fly on numerous operational deployments including Op Shader and Op Newcombe in Mali. In addition, he has also flown on overseas exercises in France, Croatia, North Macedonia and the USA. He is a newly qualified Training Captain, having been taught how to undertake this challenging role by our very own display captain.
Weapons System Operator – Sgt Josh Tomlins
Josh was born and raised in Essex. After completing his A-Levels, he worked as a caterer and NHS First Responder before enlisting in the RAF in 2015, as an Air Traffic Controller. Converting to the Aircrew branch in late 2016, he passed the Generic Aircrew Course and was streamed Rotary. After finishing helicopter WSOp training in 2020, Josh was posted to 18(B) Sqn at RAF Odiham.
Josh has accumulated over 800 Chinook flying hours, in multiple countries. In 2021 he deployed to Mali, working with French forces to support the combat and humanitarian mission. Since Mali, he has deployed to the Middle East and Estonia, with overseas training exercises in the USA and throughout Europe. Josh is a qualified Unit SERE Instructor and now a Crew Served Weapons Instructor.
GROUND CREW AND ENGINEERS
The RAF Chinook Display Team is made up of far more than just the aircrew who occupy the aircraft during the display; the force could not function without its engineers. The ground support teams work extremely hard to get the aircraft ready for display flying and keep it serviceable throughout the weekend. Often they will arrive at the Chinook hours before the crew arrive to ensure that the aircraft is prepared, whilst flight briefings are occurring elsewhere. Like all rotary-wing engineers they take pride in readying an aircraft even if exposed to wind, rain or any other conditions during their pre-flight checks.
The engineers tend to arrive at a display venue by road, ahead of the aircraft, and often leave after it departs for home. The small, experienced teams are led by carefully selected engineering managers who know the aircraft intimately. The teams work long hours to make sure that spectators get to see the Chinook Display and, just as it is for the Display Crew, their ground role is a secondary duty to which they dedicate a huge amount of time and energy. Their hard work and commitment is what gets the aircraft into the air time and time again and the display could not be achieved without them.