Central Flying School
Central flying school badge.gif
Active12 May 1912 (1912-May-12) – present
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
TypeFlying training school
RoleInstructor training and flying training oversight
Part ofNo. 22 Group
StationsRAF Cranwell (HQ)
RAF Shawbury (Helicopters Squadron)
Motto(s)Imprimis Praecepta (Latin: Our teaching is everlasting)
Group Captain Martin Higgins

The Central Flying School (CFS) is the Royal Air Force's primary institution for the training of military flying instructors. Established in 1912 at the Upavon Aerodrome, it is the longest existing flying training school. The school was based at RAF Little Rissington from 1946 to 1976. Its motto is Imprimis Praecepta, Latin for "The Teaching is Everlasting".

The school currently manages a series of training squadrons and the RAF Display Team.


CFS Folland Gnat advanced trainer at RAF Little Rissington, 1967
CFS Folland Gnat advanced trainer at RAF Little Rissington, 1967
CFS Gloster Meteor T.7 at RAF Coltishall, 1969
CFS Gloster Meteor T.7 at RAF Coltishall, 1969

The Central Flying School was established by the Royal Navy at Upavon Aerodrome, near Upavon, Wiltshire, on 12 May 1912.[1] The school’s strength at the outset was ten Staff Officers and eighty flying students, whose course lasted for sixteen weeks.[2] Its first commandant was Captain Godfrey Paine RN, and it also trained pilots for the Royal Flying Corps, created in 1912, and the Royal Naval Air Service, 1914–1918. It has been responsible for instructor training since 1920, with pilot training being delegated to the Flying Training Schools.

In 1926, the school moved from Upavon to RAF Wittering, but in 1935 it returned to Upavon.[2] The school was based at RAF Little Rissington from 1946 to 1976.[3]

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.[4]

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 more modern Westland Gazelle HT.2s. 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.[5]

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

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:[6][7]

UK military aircrew from all three services start their flying careers with elementary flying training:[8]

Prefect T1 used by UKMFTS
Prefect T1 used by UKMFTS

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

Fast jet

T6 Texan-II, used under the UKMFTS contract.
T6 Texan-II, used under the UKMFTS contract.

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


Phenom 100 used under the UKMFTS contract.
Phenom 100 used under the UKMFTS contract.

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

No. 1 Flying Training School (replaced Defence Helicopter Flying School in 2020).

RAF rotary wing students stream onto the Chinook or the Merlin.

Future system


Grob Tutor
Grob Tutor

Suitable pilots are trained as Qualified Flying Instructor (QFIs) on the Grob Tutor, Grob Prefect and Embraer Phenom[15] at RAF College Cranwell. Texan and Hawk QFI's are trained by CFS personnel at RAF Valley.[15] Helicopter instructors (QHI's), both pilots and rearcrew, are trained at RAF Shawbury, home of No. 1 Flying Training 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).


Central Flying School staff in January 1913
Central Flying School staff in January 1913

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

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2008)

Assistant Commandants

Notable former instructors

See also


  1. ^ Lake 1999, p. 44.
  2. ^ a b Hugh Soar, Straight & True (2012), p. 87
  3. ^ Roy Bagshaw, Alan Pollock, Malcolm Thomas, RAF Little Rissington: The Central Flying School, 1946–76 (2006)
  4. ^ Thetford 1995, p. 398.
  5. ^ Green 1976, p. 13.
  6. ^ "News & Press". Ascent Flight Training. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  7. ^ http://www.ascentflighttraining.net/. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ http://www.tonycunnane.uk/page-408.html. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ https://www.raf.mod.uk/aircraft/120tp-prefect/. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ https://www.raf.mod.uk/our-organisation/squadrons/72-squadron/. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ https://www.raf.mod.uk/our-organisation/squadrons/45-squadron/. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/the-fighting-arms/fleet-air-arm/support-and-training/705-naval-air-squadron. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ https://www.raf.mod.uk/our-organisation/squadrons/60-squadron/. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ https://www.raf.mod.uk/our-organisation/squadrons/202-squadron/. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ a b "Royal Air Force". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 10 September 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 5 July 2015.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 July 2007. Retrieved 9 November 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "Air Vice-Marshal Freddie Hazlewood". The Daily Telegraph. 29 July 2007.
  19. ^ O’Neill, Sean (14 December 2018). "Red Arrows commander still flying high after speedy cancer scan saved him cancer". The Times. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  20. ^ "royal flying | flying corps | flying school | 1912 | 0776 | Flight Archive". www.flightglobal.com. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012.
  21. ^ "H M Trenchard_P". rafweb.org.
  22. ^ "No. 28873". The London Gazette. 18 August 1914. p. 6496.
  23. ^ "T I Webb_Bowen_P". rafweb.org.
  24. ^ "No. 28901". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 September 1914. p. 7284.
  25. ^ "No. 29094". The London Gazette. 9 March 1915. p. 2368.

Coordinates: 53°01′53″N 0°29′36″W / 53.0314°N 0.4934°W / 53.0314; -0.4934