This week, the rotary element of the UK Military Flying Training System (MFTS) achieved the auspicious milestone of 25,000 flying hours on their helicopter fleet. As well as reaching this milestone in flying hours RAF Shawbury’s Juno helicopter named Aries also took to the skies for the first time. The fleet of 29 Juno and 3 Jupiter helicopters are used to train military helicopter aircrew from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force.
In December 2019, RAF Shawbury named a Juno helicopter Aries to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Aries round-the-world record breaking flight reinstating a long-standing tradition.
In 1944, RAF navigation training was centred on RAF Shawbury and the Empire Air Navigation School. In Sep 1944, a Lancaster bomber PD 328 was offered to the School for research flying and was named Aries. Under the command of Wg Cdr David McKinley DFC AFC with a crew of 10, Aries took off from RAF Shawbury on 21 October 1944, just over 75 years ago and landed back on 14 December 1944.
The trip was successful, and Aries returned after 53 days and over 200 flying hours, having made a series of ‘firsts’ and set a few records. Aries was the first British military aircraft to fly around the world and covered almost 36,000 nautical miles on this historic flight. Ever since a military registered aircraft has borne the name Aries and the unit always commemorates this historic flight.
Wing Commander Phil Spencer, Officer Commanding Engineering and Logistics Wing said:
“It is fitting that we have managed to mark the reliability of our fleet of helicopters achieving 25,000 flying hours with the first flight of our Aries Juno. It is a fitting tribute that our most famous historic training aircraft is commemorated on one of our ultra-modern fleet used for the world-leading training at the Defence Helicopter Flying School.”