Central Flying School

The Central Flying School (CFS) is the Royal Air Force's primary institution for the training of military flying instructors. Established in 1912, it is the longest existing flying training school. Its motto is Imprimis Praecepta which is Latin for "Our Teaching is Everlasting" and its Mission Statement is 'To Deliver, Develop and Assure Excellence in Aircrew Instruction for Defence'. It currently manages a series of training squadrons as well as the RAF Display Team.

Central Flying School
Active12 May 1912 – present
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
RoleRAF flying training
Size100 personnel
Garrison/HQRAF Upavon, Wiltshire England 1912–1946

RAF Little Rissington, Gloucestershire England 1946–1976
RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire England 1983–1995

RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire England 1995–present
Nickname(s)RAF CFS
Motto(s)Imprimis Praecepta (Latin: Our teaching is everlasting)
CommandantGroup Captain Fin Monahan


It was established at Upavon Aerodrome, near Upavon, Wiltshire on 12 May 1912.[1] It was later based at RAF Little Rissington, from 1946 to 1976. The CFS's first commandant was Captain Godfrey Paine RN. It has been responsible for instructor training since 1920, with pilot training being delegated to the Flying Training Schools.

Display teams

When the Red Arrows, the RAF's sole aerobatic team was formed by amalgamation of other teams, the responsibility was transferred to the CFS from Fighter Command. The Red Arrows moved to RAF Scampton in 1983 when the CFS was moved there and out in 1995– though the Red Arrows returned in 2000.

Elementary flying training

The section started using de Havilland Chipmunk T.10 and Scottish Aviation Bulldog T.1.[2]

In 2000 the Grob Tutor T.1 replaced the Scottish Aviation Bulldog as the initial trainer operated by the unit.

Fast jet training

During the 1950s the CFS was equipped with the Gloster Meteor. During 1976 the Hawker Siddeley Gnat T.1s were based at RAF Valley however during 1977 these were replaced as the CFS main advanced jet trainer by the Hawker Siddeley Hawk T.1.

From 1993 the Short Tucano took the place of the BAC Jet Provost.

Helicopter training

Helicopter instruction began in 1955 on the Westland Dragonfly and Bristol Sycamore at RAF South Cerney in Gloucestershire. It moved to RAF Ternhill in August 1961. From 1966, the Westland-built Sioux helicopter began service, lasting until 1973, when replaced with the Westland Gazelle HT.2s, much more reminiscent of modern-day helicopters. During the 1970s the Westland Whirlwind HAR.10s were also used and the School had a detachment at RAF Valley, Anglesey, Wales for SAR and mountain rescue training.[3]

In 1997 the Gazelle HT.2's and HT.3's were replaced by the Squirrel (Eurocopter AS350), and the Griffin (Bell 412) is also used. RAF Shawbury has been the home of the helicopter training school since 1977, becoming the Defence Helicopter Flying School in 1997. A satellite unit of the CFS is maintained at RAF Shawbury to train and develop helicopter instructors.

Current Training Squadrons

All UK military aircrew start their flying careers with elementary flying training:

Following EFT, aircrew students are streamed to either fast jet, rotary-wing or multi-engine pipelines.

Fast Jet

Following Fast Jet training, successful students go on to the Typhoon or F-35 Lightning.

Multi Engine

Multi Engine students will go on to fly the C-17, Atlas, Hercules or Voyager transport aircraft or ISTAR assets like the Shadow, Sentry, Sentinel or Rivet Joint.

Rotary Wing

Defence Helicopter Flying School

Rotary wing students stream onto the Chinook or the Puma HC.2.

Future System

Under the new UK Military Flying Training System, provided by Ascent Flight Training, a consortium of Lockheed Martin and Babcock International, new aircraft will be procured for the pipeline:[4]


Suitable pilots are trained as Qualified Flying Instructor (QFIs) on the Grob Tutor and the Beechcraft King Air at RAF College Cranwell. Tucano QFIs are trained by CFS personnel at RAF Linton-on-Ouse and Hawk QFIs are trained by similar personnel at RAF Valley. Helicopter instructors, both pilots and rearcrew, are trained at RAF Shawbury, home of the Defence Helicopter Flying School.

Flying instructors are awarded the Qualified Flying Instructor qualification for fixed-wing types. Helicopter instructors are referred to as Qualified Helicopter Instructors (QHI) or Qualified Helicopter Crewman Instructors (QHCI).


Ranks given are the highest rank the officer in command held during his tenure.

1912 to 1919

1919 to 1920 (as Commandant, Flying Instructors' School)

1920 to 1944

1946 to present

  • 1951 Anthony Selway
  • 1961 Hugh Connolly
  • 1963 Harold Bird-Wilson
  • 1968 Ivor Broom
  • 1970 Freddie Hazlewood[7]
  • 1974 John Severne
  • 1983 John Kemball
  • 1985 Air Commodore Allan Blackley
  • Air Commodore David Leppard
  • 1994 Air Commodore Simon Bostock
  • 1996 Air Commodore Gavin Mackay
  • 2007 Group Captain Nick Seward
  • 2009 Group Captain Simon Blake
  • 2012 Group Captain David Bentley
  • 2014 Group Captain Jamie Hunter
  • 2016 Group Captain Fin Monahan

Assistant Commandants

Notable former instructors

See also


  1. Lake 1999, p. 44.
  2. Thetford 1995, p. 398.
  3. Green 1976, p. 13.
  4. "News & Press". Ascent Flight Training. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  5. http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1916/1916%20-%200134.html
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 July 2007. Retrieved 9 November 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. Obituary in Telegraph
  8. http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1912/1912%20-%200776.html
  9. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Trenchard.htm
  10. "No. 28873". The London Gazette. 18 August 1914. p. 6496.
  11. http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Webb-Bowen.htm
  12. "No. 28901". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 September 1914. p. 7284.
  13. "No. 29094". The London Gazette. 9 March 1915. p. 2368.
  • Green, W; Swanborough, G (1976). Royal Air Force Yearbook 1976. Bromley: Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.
  • Lake, A (1999). Flying units of the RAF. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-84037-086-6.
  • Taylor, John W R (1987) [1958]. Central Flying School, Birthplace of Air Power. Jane's Publishing. ISBN 0-7106-0486-6.
  • Thetford, O (1995). Aircraft of the Royal Air Force since 1918. London, UK: Putnam Aeronautical Books. ISBN 0-85177-865-8.

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