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L-R SLt Shilton (24) SLt Graham (20)


Published: 31 May 2017

ROYAL Navy pair, first pilots ever to be trained from scratch by the Fleet Air Arm in 100 years!


Sub Lieutenant (SLt) Andrew Graham (20) and SLt Richard Shilton (24) are the first two EFT (Elementary Flying Training) students to be trained at 727 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton.


It takes about four years for someone with no prior experience to learn how to be a pilot with the Fleet Air Arm – the Royal Navy’s flying branch. It’s no mean feat to turn an ‘ab-initio’ into a combat pilot. Sometimes likened to having a driving test every day and a set of A-Levels every few weeks, the training regime is so intense that a Bachelor’s degree is awarded alongside the final qualification to fly one of the Royal Navy’s front-line aircraft.


It all starts with Elementary Flying Training (EFT), the first course during which a student pilot will fly an aircraft solo. In recent years these courses – common to all three services – have been run at RAF stations. Now for the first time in it’s almost 100 year history, Fleet Air Arm ab-initio trainees have been taught to fly by Royal Navy instructors, at a Royal Naval Air Station. The last time the Navy trained its pilots ‘from the ground up’ was nearly a century ago in 1918, just before the Fleet Air Arm’s forerunner – the Royal Naval Air Service – was amalgamated into the Royal Air



The squadron is no stranger to teaching; until December 2016 it was responsible for the Navy’s cadet flying schemes, as well as the delivery of Naval Pilot Grading – the last selection hurdle for prospective naval aviators.


Commanding Officer of 727 NAS, Lieutenant Commander Jim Ashlin said;


With the carrier on the way and fleets of new aircraft also, we need to recruit and train more and more pilots. To support the RAF in delivering EFT, 727 have stepped up to the challenge. SLt Andrew Graham and SLt Richard Shilton leave us to complete their training and will ultimately deploy all over the world, providing security at sea from some of the most modern helicopters in the world.”


Both selected to train as helicopter pilots, Lieutenants Graham and Shilton leave Somerset for Shropshire, where they will be among the last Royal Navy pilots to train in Squirrel helicopters at the Defence Helicopter Flying School, before the introduction of the new Military Flying Training School’s Airbus Helicopter H135s.


Good luck both!


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