The Station

RAF Benson in South Oxfordshire is a support helicopter main operating base working within the Joint Helicopter Command.

RAF Benson is home to two front-line Puma HC2 helicopter squadrons and one Operational Conversion Unit, flying a mix of Puma HC2 and Chinook HC4 helicopters. It is also home to the Operational Evaluation Unit of the Joint Helicopter Command.

RAF Benson is also home to the civilian National Police Air Service and the Thames Valley Air Ambulance which operate 24 hours a day.

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Group Captain Chris Royston-Airey MA RAF

Group Captain Royston-Airey took command of RAF Benson in November 2022.

He has previously served at RAF Benson as OC 33 Sqn in 2018.

Who's based here


UAS Squadrons



In 1937, with the RAF expanding, work began building an airfield near the historic village of Benson. On 1 February 1939, RAF Benson opened and accepted its first aircraft; 2 squadrons of Fairey Battle Bombers.

From 1939 until 1995, the Station became the start point for many a Royal journey as initially the ‘King's Flight’, and then later the ‘Queen's Flight’ made its home at RAF Benson. The Queen’s Flight remained at RAF Benson until 1995, when it moved to RAF Northolt and was amalgamated with No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron. Following the war, the station re-grouped under Transport Command to provide medium range tactical air transport.

In March 1992 RAF Benson began its association with helicopters as first No. 60 Squadron flying Wessex HC2 helicopters, and then in 1997 No. 33 Squadron flying Puma HC1 helicopters took up residence. This was followed by the Merlin Helicopters of No. 28 (Army Cooperation) Squadron in July 2001 and of No. 78 Squadron in January 2008 creating the home of the Merlin Force. In 2014, as a result of Support Helicopter rationalisation across Defence, the RAF’s Merlin helicopters transferred to the Royal Navy.  

In May 2020, No. 22 Squadron re-formed at RAF Benson, providing operational evaluation, trials and testing of equipment and tactical training for the crews of all helicopter types flown by the Joint Helicopter Command.

Key dates

1939   RAF Benson opened.

1939 - 1995   home of Royal flying.

1992   Rotary wing aircraft moved to RAF Benson.

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