Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation
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All Flying Training Schools in existence were redesignated Service Flying Training Schools on 3 Sep 1939. In 1942 those SFTSs still extant in Britain were again redesignated as Advanced Flying Units (Pilots). Those schools reformed before 1947 reverted to the title SFTS but in April/May 1947 the title FTS was adopted again. Periods shown include those during which the designation SFTS was used but not the designation (P) AFU.
For details of Commanding Officers click on the symbol OCs under the FTS number.No 1 Flying Training School
Formed at Netheravon on 23 December 1919 from the Netheravon Flying School, within No 7 Group It flew Avro 504Ks, Ns Sopwith Snipes DH9As and Bristol F2Bs. It was responsible for the training of Royal Naval officers for secondment to the Fleet Air Arm until 15 February 1928, when this role was transferred to RAF Training Base at Leuchars. No 1 FTS disbanded on 1 February 1931.
It was reformed by renaming RAF Base Leuchars on 1 April 1935, continuing its previous role of training RN officers for the FAA. In August 1938 it returned to Netheravon and on 1 September 1939 was renamed No 1 Service Flying Training School. It disbanded again on 7 March 1942 when Netheravon was allocated to No 30 Wing, Army Co-operation Command.
It did not reappear until World War Two when No 17 SFTS at Spitalgate was redesignated No 1 FTS, but eight months later, on 25 February 1948, it disbanded yet again. It once again reformed, this time at Oakington, on 1 December 1950, moving to Moreton-in-Marsh on 31 October 1951. At the same time Prentices replaced the Harvards but disbandment came again on 20 April 1955.
However, less then two weeks later, on 1 May 1955 No 22 FTS at Syerston was redesignated No 1 FTS. Equipped with Chipmunks, Provosts and Vampires, it moved to Linton-on-Ouse on 18 November 1957, where it remains to the present day (2009). In 1961 it received the Jet Provost and these were operated until replaced by Tucanos. The School squadrons adopted the identities of No 72 (Reserve) and No 207 (Reserve) Squadrons in July 2002.
No 2 Flying Training School
No 2 FTS was first formed in No 3 Group on 26 April 1920 from No 31 Training Squadron with a special flight attached to carry out research for the Professor of Aeronautical Services at Cambridge University. At the end of August 1921 it was transferred to No 1 Group but returned to No 3 Group on 1 July 1923. Initially equipped with Avro 504Ks and Ns for basic training it used DH9As, Bristol F2Bs and Snipes for service training, the 504s were eventually replaced by the Tutor and Siskins and Grebes replaced the Snipes. The school ceased operations on 29 July 1933 and disbanded on 15 December at Digby, where it had moved on 30 Jun 1924.
The school reformed on 1 October 1934 in No 23 Group at its previous home of Digby, now equipped with Tutors for basic training and Harts and Furies for the service training phase. In 1936 Audaxes were added and in September1937 the school moved to RAF Brize Norton to move it away from the likely area of operations in the event of a war. By August 1939, basic flying training was being carrying out at civilian run Elementary and Reserve Flying Training Schools and the FTSs were concentrating on the service flying phase of training and to the end it was equipped with Harvards and Oxfords. With the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939 the school’s title was changed to No 2 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) and on 24 June 1940 it was reclassified as a Group II school concentrating on twin engined training with Oxfords. By 1942 the Commonwealth Air Training Plan was in full swing and most aircrew were being trained up to SFTS level in Canada, South Africa or Rhodesia before arriving in or returning Britain so it was decided to convert the SFTSs to (Pilot) or (Observer) Advanced Flying Units. These units would concentrate in training the personnel arriving from overseas in the techniques and conditions of flying in a blacked-out Northern Europe. As a result No 2 SFTS became No 2 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit on 14 March 1942.
On 23 July 1947 No 20 FTS at Church Lawford was redesignated No 2 FTS and on 6 April 1948 it moved to South Cerney. It was equipped with Tiger Moths and Harvards but in June 1949 the Tiger Moths were replaced by Prentices. However, the school did not last long as it was redesignated Central Flying Scholl (Basic) on 1 May 1952. As a result of the Korean War there was an increase in demand for pilots and No 2 FTS reformed on 1 March 1953 at Cluntoe in Northern Ireland with Prentices and Harvards. It moved to Hullavington on 1 June 1954, now equipped with Provosts and Chipmunks but in 1955 it became the first school in the world to offer ab-initio training on jet aircraft when it introduced the Jet Provost T Mk 1 to a selected group of students. The experiment led the way to the introduction of the Jet Provost to all RAF FTSs. On 18 November 1957 the school moved to Syerston and in December became No 2 (Basic) FTS until it disbanded on 16 January 1970. However, the same day the Primary Flying School at Church Fenton was renamed No 2 FTS. Equipped with Chipmunks a Bulldog section was added in 1973 which operated as the Royal Navy Elementary Flying Training School. No 2 FTS disbanded on 2 December 1974, although the RNEFTS transferred to the control of No 1 FTS at Linton-on-Ouse.
So far the school’s final incarnation began on 31 March 1976 when it was reformed as No 2 (Advanced) FTS at Ternhill to give advanced training to helicopter pilots. On 8 October 1976 it moved to Shawbury to become No 2 FTS and where it took over control of the Central Air Traffic Control School as well as continuing to train helicopter pilots at both basic and advanced levels as well as helicopter crewmen. On 30 March 1997 No s FTS was disbanded and was replaced at Shawbury by the Defence Helicopter Flying School which now trains helicopter pilots for all three British armed services.
No 3 FTS was first formed at Scopwick (later renamed Digby) on 26 April 1920 from No 59 Training Squadron in No 3 Group. It was transferred to No 1 Group on 31 Aug 1921 but disbanded on 1 April 1922.
The school reformed at Spitalgate near Grantham on 1 April 1928, equipped with Avro 504Ns and Siskins, which were later replaced by Tutors, Atlases and Harts. On 16 August 1937 the school relocated to RAF South Cerney, becoming No 3 Service Flying Training School on 3 September 1939, where it remained until being redesignated No 3 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit on 1 March 1942. By the outbreak of war the school was operating Harts and Oxfords but on 24 June 1940 it became a Group II school, specialising on twin engined training using Oxfords. During this part of its life, the school used a number of relief landing grounds including Stormy Down, Bibury, Long Newnton and Wanborough.
With the end of the war No 3 (P) AFU was redesignated No 3 SFTS again on 17 December 1945 and was now equipped with Harvards. On 24 April 1946 the school moved to Feltwell and on 9 April 1947, its title reverted to No 3 FTS and continued to operate from here until 31 May 1958 by which time it was using the Provost T Mk 1.
It entered the jet age when it was reformed at RAF Leeming on 15 September 1961, equipped with the Jet Provost T Mk 3. In 1966 it took over the Vampire Advanced Training Unit from No 7 FTS and in December of the same year became No 3 (Basic) FTS. 1971 saw control transfer from No 22 to No 23 Group and in December 1973 it took over the School of Refresher Flying from RAF Manby. In November 1974 it took over another unit when the RN Elementary Flying Training School arrived from RAF Church Fenton, but with the reduction in the demand for pilots and the RAF cut back, the school was disbanded on 26 April 1984.
The school’s final (so far) incarnation began on 1 February 1989 when the flying training units at the RAF College Cranwell were redesignated. It was now responsible for the ab initio training of pilots following completion of their officer training at the College. In 1995 the school took over the CFS Bulldog element, which was later replaced by the CFS Tutor element. Also in 1995 the Dominies and Jetstreams (No 45 (Reserve) Squadron) of No 6 FTS were taken over on the closure of RAF Finningley, with the Dominie element becoming No 55 (Reserve) Squadron on 1 November 1996. The school is now responsible for the training of all non-pilot aircrew for the RAF and home to the CFS Tutor Squadron.
Formed at Abu Suier in Egypt on 1 April 1921 to train pilots, primarily for squadrons based in the Middle East. Until 1935, it operated Avro 504s but when responsibility for ab initio training in the UK was given to civilian schools, 4 FTS was re-organised and re-equipped. The course length was reduced to six months from nine and Tutors replaced the Avros, although the last one did not leave until April 1936. Audaxes and Atlases also replaced older types, such as the DH9 and Bristol F2b in the advanced training role. In October 1938 a Navigation Flight was added to the school, equipped with Ansons.
Two days before war was declared in Europe, 4 FTS ceased operations and moved to Habbaniya in Iraq. In February 1940, the name of the school was changed to No 4 Service Flying Training School and its role was effectively that of advanced training for personnel who had already received their elementary training in the UK or elsewhere. After the outbreak of war, it became increasing difficult to get such trainees from the UK and the school had to find them from such sources as Rhodesia, India and Malta. At around this time the school was also tasked with training observers and air gunners for the Middle East. But as the training systems in Rhodesia and South Africa built up during 1940 and 1941, it became obvious the the need for a school at Habbaniya was no longer valid and 4 FTS closed on 1 July 1941. From late April to June 1941, the school had operated its aircraft in an offensive role when a German inspired insurrection took place by Iraqi forces, which became known as the Battle of Habbaniya.
The school reformed at Heany in Southern Rhodesian on February 1947 as part of the Air Training Wing, Southern Rhodesia to train pilots and navigators at both ab initio and advanced levels. By January 1948, it had been found unwieldy to train both pilots and navigators, so the Ansons and navigator training were transferred to No 3 FTS at Thornhill and the Tiger Moths and Harvards of No 5 FTS from Thornhill, arrived at Heany. In 1951, the Tiger Moths were replaced by Chipmunks and from 1949 trainees also received officer training pending selection for commissions at the end of the flying training. This was further modified in November 1950 when all trainees who passed the initial training were commissioned and therefore completed their flying training as Acting Pilot Officers on Probation, the first such group arriving in May 1951. The closure of The Rhodesian Air Training Group meant the end of No 4 FTS, which disbanded on 26 January 1954.
However, it was not long before No 4 FTS was reformed when No 205 Advanced Flying School (AFS) at Middleton St-George, was re-designated on 1 June 1954. The school now trained National Service pilots in jet flying, but from January 1955, it received Vampire T Mk 11s and took on the role of advanced training of pilots who had already qualified for their 'Wings' on the (piston) Provost. The school also operated the single seat Vampire FB Mk 5 in the ground attack training role. In 1956 the school moved to Worksop, where it absorbed No 211 FTS, taking on their Meteors for 18 months before reverting to an all Vampire unit. The school disbanded again on 9 June 1958.
When 4 FTS closed in 1958, its role was transferred to No 7 FTS at Valley, but on 15 August 1960, 7 FTS was renumbered as No 4 FTS. At this time the school also took on the role of training multi engined pilots using the Varsity, but in 1962, this role was transferred to No 5 FTS at Oakington. In November 1962 the school took deliver of its first Folland Gnat and by August 1963, these had completely replaced the Vampires. The school now concentrated on the advanced training of fast jet pilots up to 'Wings' standard, following their basic fling training on the Jet Provost. In 1964, the school operated a five Gnat aerobatic team called the 'Yellow Jacks', which led to the creation the following year of the 'Red Arrows' at the Central Flying School.
In 1967, Hunters were received, equipping No 3 Squadron and the two types continued to train pilots until 1976. In that year the first Hawk arrived to begin replacing the Gnat, although it was November 1979 before the final Gnat course graduated. The first Hawk course began in July 1977 and the aircraft continue in the same role to the present day. In 1992 the the squadrons of 4 FTS were allocated defunct RAF squadron numbers. Initially No 19 Squadron training instructors, No 74, initial training and No 208, advanced and weapons training. With the disbandment of No 74 Squadron, its role was taken on by No 19 and this is the current situation (2005).
No 5 Flying Training School
Formed on 26 April 1920 at Shotwick, near Chester, it was one of the RAF’s main flying training units between World War One and World War Two. It eventually moved to Ternhill between 16 November and 17 December 1940. It operated the full range of RAF training aircraft including Avro 504 Ks, Bristol Fighters, Atlases, Siskins, Tutors, Harts, Oxfords and Masters. In June 1940 it lost the twin engined training role and it was redesignated No 5 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit on 1 April 1942.
It subsequently reformed from 23 April 1947 until 4 January 1948 at Thornhill as part of the Rhodesian Air Training Group and again from 22 January 1951 until 30 December 1953. It reformed for the last time on 1 June 1954 from No 206 Advanced Flying School at Oakington. It was equipped with Vampires and Meteors to covert pilots onto jets but in 1962 it converted to the training of multi-engined pilots on the Varsity. These were replaced by Jetstreams in 1974 and the school disbanded on 31 December of that year.26/4/20 - 1/4/22
1/4/35 - 1/4/42
17/12/45 - 30/6/68
1/5/70 - 31/3/96
During the move from Grantham to Manston (1920-21), it was not listed in the Air Force Lists.
2/12/35 - ?/8/40
21/12/44 - 14/4/54
1/6/54 - 15/8/60
13/3/62 - 30/11/66
2/4/79 - 30/9/94
Formed on 1 January 1936 at Montrose in No 23 Group, it was transferred to No 21 Group on 1 January 1939 and was renamed No 8 Service Flying Training School on 3 September 1939. It was equipped with Harts and Oxfords for both single and multi-engined training but on 24 June 1940 it re-classified as a single-engined (Group 1) school. It disbanded into No 2 Flying Instructors School on 25 March 1942 and its role was taken over by No 41 SFTS.
It was reformed at Dalcross in No 23 Group on 1 May 1951 as a result of the expansion brought about by the Korean War, equipped with Oxfords. A month later, on 1 June, it was renamed No 8 Advanced Flying School and in October 1952 was operating 64 Oxfords, I Tiger Moth and 5 Chipmunks. It disbanded on 1 December 1953.
Its final incarnation began on 1 June 1954 when No 203 Advanced Flying School at Driffield was redesignated. Equipped with Meteors initially, Provosts and Vampires were added later, before it moved to Swinderby on 22 August 1955. The school disbanded on 19 March 1964.
No 9 Flying Training School
1/12/51 - 1/5/54
1/7/54 - 16/2/55
No 10 Flying Training School 1/1/36 - 1/11/40
15/1/52 - 14/4/54
1/6/54 - 1/7/54
No 11 Flying Training School
Formed on 1 October 1935 at Wittering in No 23 Group, it was equipped with Harts, Furies and Audaxes. Ansons and Oxfords were added later and on 16 May 1938, it moved to Shawbury and was renamed No 11 Service Flying Training School on 3 September 1939. In June 1940 it was re-classified as a Group II school and concentrated on multi-engine training. It was disbanded by being redesignated No 11 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit on 14 March 1942.
It reformed on 1 June 1954 at Swinderby from No 201 Advanced Flying School, which trained navigators on Varsities. It was disbanded into No 2 Air Navigation School on 7 June 1955.
[OCs | Personnel and Locations]Formed at Grantham (Spittlegate) on 1 December 1938 in No 23 Group, it became the first FTS to receive the North American Harvard, advanced trainer. On 3 September 1939, it was redesignated No 12 Service Flying Training School, by which time the Harvards had left to be replaced by Harts and Oxfords. On 10 October 1939, it was transferred to No 21 Group and by May 1940, its equipment consisted of Harts, Battles and Ansons. On 8 October 1940, it was reclassified as a Group II school concentrating on the training of twin engined pilots and by the following May its establishment had been standardised on Oxfords, however, on 1 April 1942, it was disbanded by being redesignated No 12 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit.
It reformed on 1 June 1954 at Weston Zoyland from No 209 Advanced Flying School. It operated a Jet Conversion Course and No 3 All-Weather Jet Refresher Squadron, being equipped with Meteor T Mk 7s for these purposes. On 1 May 1955, the Jet Conversion Course moved to the RAF Flying College at Manby and No 3 AWJR Squadron transferred to RAF Strubby, with No 12 FTS disbanding on 24 June 1955.
No 13 Flying Training School
[OCs | Personnel and Locations]17/3/39 - 27/10/39
[OCs | Personnel and Locations]
No 14 Flying Training School was formed on 1 April 1939 at Kinloss to train pilots on more advanced types following completion of an elementary flying course. For this purpose it was equipped with both Harvards and Oxfords and was tasked with training both single seat and multi-engine pilots. On the outbreak of war, it designation was changed to No 14 Service FTS.
In April 1940, the school moved out of Kinloss, which was required as an operational station and re-located to Cranfield and in August was re-classified as a Group II school, which specialised in training multi-engine pilots. By September 1940, it was equipped with 108 Oxfords and used a number of Relief Landing Grounds at Long Newnton (November - December 1940), Sibson (December 1940 - June 1941), Twinwood Farm (June - August 1941 and West Raynham (‘A’ Flight only, February - March 1941).
On 16 August 1941, the school moved to Lyneham in Wiltshire, using Long Newnton (August 1941 - January 1942 and Wanborough (August 1941 - January 1942) at RLGs. Another move took place on 19 January 1942, when the school re-located to Ossington, but seven days later it was redesignated No 14 (P) AFU (see below).
No 14 Advanced FTS reformed on 3 March 1952 at Holme-on-Spalding Moor, equipped with Oxfords and Prentices, using Elvington as an RLG from May 1952 but disbanded again on 31 January 1953.
No 15 Flying Training School
[OCs | Personnel and Locations]1/5/39 - 1/3/42
23/2/52 - 12/5/52
No 16 Service Flying Training School9/6/41 - 18/12/46
Prior to World War Two, RAF Cranwell was responsible for training Flight Cadets who on completion of their course would be awarded Permanent Commissions in the RAF with a view to them becoming the future senior commanders of the service. However with the outbreak of war in September 1939 this method of entry was curtailed with the last intake graduating from a shortened course in early 1940. From this point the College assumed the role of a normal Service Flying Training School, which acted as advanced training units, training pilots on the more advanced types they would fly on operational squadrons. Called the RAF College SFTS, it trained pilots to fly twin engined aircraft using Oxfords and utilised the main airfield at Cranwell as well as RLG, at Wellingore, Barkston Heath, Fulbeck and Caistor.
On 20 March 1944 it was redesignated No 17 SFTS, by which time it was also equipped with Masters, Spitfires and Blenheims as well as the Oxfords. It was now utilising RLGs at Caistor, Wellingore, Coleby Grange and in November/December 1944 operated a detachment at Castle Kennedy. In 1 May 1945 it left Cranwell and moved a few miles away to Spittlegate (Grantham) using Harlaxton and Bottesford as RLGs. It was now operated Oxfords, Harvards, Spitfires and Beauforts but on 26 June 1946 it was redesignated No 17 Flying Training School (FTS), continuing to operate under this title until 18 June 1947 when it was once again redesignated No 1 FTS.
No 19 Flying Training School1/5/45 - 17/4/47
No 20 Flying Training School3/4/45 - 23/7/47
No 20 Service Flying Training School (Rhodesian Air Training Group)
This was formed at Cranborne in Southern Rhodesia on 10 July 1940 as part of the Empire Air Training Plan. Its role was to complete the training of pilots who had already completed the elementary phase of training and bring them up to the level required to pass them on for operational training prior to allocation to an operational unit. This training was undertaken Harts, Audaxes, Ansons, Gauntlets and Hurricanes. On 7 September 1945, it absorbed No 28 EFTS as an EFTS section but this closed on 16 November 1945 and the school disbanded in April 1946.
No 21 Flying Training School3/4/45 - 18/9/46
No 21 Service Flying Training School8/10/40 - 18/5/45
Rhodesian Air Training Group
22/10/45 - 1/5/55
*Rhodesian Air Training Group
No 31 Service Flying Training School15/9/40 - 14/8/44
No 32 Service Flying Training School9/12/40 - 17/10/44
No 33 Service Flying Training School26/12/40 - 1/12/44
11/3/41 - 17/11/44
No 35 Service Flying Training School19/8/41 - 25/2/41
No 36 Service Flying Training School28/9/41 - 3/11/44
No 37 Service Flying Training School22/10//41 - 10/3/44
No 38 Service Flying Training School27/4/42 - 11/2/44
No 39 Service Flying Training School15/12/41 - 24/3/44
No 207 Flying Training School1/6/54 - 21/7/54
No 211 Flying Training School1/6/54 - 9/6/56
1 (Polish) Flying Training School28/11/40 - 9/6/41
1 (Indian) Service Flying Training School1/11/40 - 1/4/46
No's 30, 31, 32, 33 and 34 FTS's were planned to be set up in France in 1940, but the German victory ended all such plans.
Formed xx xxx 2003 as a tri-service training unit to provide ab-initio training to member of all three services, prior to streaming onto either Fast-Jet, Multi-Engine or Helicopters. Although nominally based at RAF Cranwell, its flying element operates from nearby Barkston Heath.
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