Unit organisation 1987 – 1990
Alan Newton was a Flt Lt and QFI (A2) and Instrument Rating Examiner on JP3A , JP5A and Tucano T1 from 1987 until 1990. He has kindly written the text below to explain the organisation of 7FTS in the late 1980s and early 1990s around the time that the Shorts Tucano was introduced in to RAF service at Church Fenton.
7 FTS RAF Church Fenton
There were 2 BFTS (Basic Flying Training Squadrons) – 1 Squadron and 2 Squadron both had 2 flights within and there was another outfit called Headquarters Squadron which included RFF (Refresher Flying Flight) the old(RFS) Refresher Flying Squadron which was absorbed when it arrived at Church Fenton (CF). The BFTS was located in each of the C type hangars (1 sqn in 1 hangar and 2 sqn in 3 hangar). Both operated the Jet Provost 3A and 5A in the flying training role. HQ Sqn was where the QFIs (Qualified Flying Instructors) were standardised and did their upgrades in addition this sqn also did refresher training for pilots returning to the frontline after a admin/desk job or medical issue.
They too operated the JP 3A and 5A. The aeroplanes were not owned by each flying unit but were a pool from which each flying unit requested airframes. The maintenance was all carried out by serving RAF personnel.
When the Tucano arrived it was to be maintained under a civilian contract and many of the personnel were ex-RAF or military. They were based in the same hangar as 2 sqn.
When I first arrived at CF I was posted to 2 sqn as a QFI. Later I was moved into HQ sqn as deputy flight commander (2nd in command) and then went back to 2 sqn as Flight Commander D flight. This was to be the first to train RAF pilots on the Tucano. The 2 Sqn boss was Sqn Ldr Eric Constable at the time, he succeeded Sdn Ldr Phil Marsh who moved to HQ Sqn as their new boss. I had a deputy Flt Lt Bernie Watkins and other QFIs – Steve Chick, Tim Rust (2 creamy QFIs – a pilot who had been sent to become a QFI after gaining pilots wings and before frontline tour), Pete Howlet who had been seconded to us from Central Flying School Exam Wing to experience how student pilots took to the new Tucano aeroplane, Glyn Armstrong.
A Toucan emblem was designed by us and applied to the top of the Tucano fin as a transfer. It was a play of the CF symbol (see attached photo of first course ).The photo of ZF145 display aircraft flown by Steve Chick 1990 season taken at Farnborough on your web site displays a colour scheme designed by us and a modified Toucan symbol on the fin.The cost was a big player in the design of the scheme and it had to be simple. The sqn badge was also a play on the tucan theme (see attached photo of first course). We also put together a 4 Tucano formation team (Eric C leader, myself as No 2, Tim Rust No 3 and Bernie W as no 4) we flew at a variety of events such as graduations. We did not do aerobatics but flew tight turns and changed formation positions. I was interested to see the photos you had with 4 Tucano aeroplanes in formation and wondered if that was the team but the dates did not seem to match up.
The Toucan bird mascot came from a local bird sanctuary somewhere in the area but I cannot remember the name of the place. The sanctuary also had a plaque in the birds cage showing the association between ourselves and it. We got a large wooden and wire cage made for it. We were advised the bird did not like noise so most of the events it was involved with were inside ? such as dinners or graduations or visits.
The Tucano was to be used on the airshow circuit and the Station decided to have a completion to decide who was to do the display. Steve Chick and myself were in the running and completed a display in front of the station commander and other personnel including our families. Steve won the event and became the first Tucano display pilot in 1990. I was his back up and flew the spare aircraft to the larger shows such as the (IAT) International Air Tattoo.
We had some amusing situations during my time at CF. I was in the ATC tower as Duty QFI – supervising the night flying when the Switchboard operator put a call through to me. It was a member of the public who lived on the outskirts of York. She tried to explain that she was sleeping and had been woken up by jet noise over head. It appeared to be from our station ? not sure how she worked that out ? but anyway I could hardly hear her complaint because of the noise in the background which I explained at the time but she couldn?t hear me for the same reason. I found out that one of the solo students had be orbiting her house, not intentionally of course, but thought that as the area beneath his aeroplane had no lights he was over open farm land!!! When I spoke to him and pointed out that the reason for no lights might be folk asleep he was sorry for causing the
Each year the station hosted an ATC cadet camp and a Chipmunk aeroplane arrived to give them air experience flying. This was operated by HQ sqn – Sqn Ldr Bo Plummer.
Every pilot course had a graduation which the student pilots organised a fly past of operational aeroplanes on an adhoc basis. Some of your photos appear to show these fly pasts. ATC was also in on the act and they tried to encourage fly pasts also… hence you have pictures of BA747, Concorde, Lightnings, etc. Behind the Officers Mess was an orchard and this was also the scene for graduation parties, indeed parties of all kinds.
Elvington, south of York, was the relief landing ground used by CF for the early student pilot training and solo flights. Several aeroplanes were sent to the airfield and operated daily, returning before dark. We never did this with the Tucano so these student pilots did their first solo from CF. I think it was due to the civil contract rules.
We used to collect Tucano aircraft direct from Shorts Factory in Belfast. Prior to service the aircraft were parked on the airfield away from buildings just in case there was a bomb or some other device on board. They then were put into the hangar for a into service check prior to us flying them fir the first time. The Tucano operation had many visitors including a Kenya Air Force delegation who wanted to see the aircraft prior to purchase.