The Joint Elementary Flying Training School was a civilian unit on contract to the RAF. Its’ purpose (originally) was to give potential pilots for all three services elementary flying training. Its’ main home was RAF Barkston Heath, near RAF Cranwell. The school’s throughput of pilots was becoming too slow due to congestion in the airspace around Barkston Heath. As a result, in 1998 it was decided to permanently move a number of the school’s aircraft to RAF Church Fenton. This allowed a larger number of flying hours to be amassed than would otherwise be possible, meaning pilots could be trained quicker and the services got the number of new pilots they needed. The school was equipped with Slingsby Fireflies, owned and operated by Hunting Contract Services .
Until June 2003, all Direct Entry RAF pilots (the ones who aren’t at University and learning to fly with a UAS) were trained at Church Fenton. The course was 62 hours long. The other JEFTS airbases (Barkston Heath and Middle Wallop) were concerned with training Army and RN pilots (Army grading takes place at Middle Wallop).
In June 2003 the contract for JEFTS was up for renewal, and the RAF decided that it could train its direct entry pilots by using up spare capacity in the University Air Squadrons. Hence all UASs in the country then created a “Direct Entry” flight. As a result of this, the RAF element of JEFTS, based at Church Fenton was disbanded and the aircraft put up for sale, leaving Yorkshire UAS as the only flying residents of the base.
As documented on the news page of the site, the final training sortie was carried out on Tuesday 24th June 2003.