UK trainingfleets change as MFTS nears

The first Grob G115 of 28 for Finland, G115EA GO-1, the former G-CGKA soon after its arrival at its new home, Tikkakoski Airport. It wears the scheme it wore with the Royal Air Force’s 3 FTS at RAF Cranwell minus the last two of its registration, the squadron badge and Babcock logo that had all been painted on the fin.
Ville Tuokko/Finnish Air Force

IN THE next few months, two new types of aircraft, the Embraer Phenom 100 and the Beechcraft Texan T1, will join the Grob 120TP Prefect in taking up the task of training future pilots for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force under the UK’s new Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS). The Phenom, recently certified as ready to go on the UK military aircraft register, will replace 45 Squadron’s King Airs; the Texans, flying from RAF Valley, Anglesey, will supersede Tucanos based at RAF Lintonon- Ouse, North Yorkshire. All five Phenoms had arrived at RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire, by the end of January, but certification glitches have delayed their introduction into service; they are now not expected to be operational until early 2019. The first two Texans arrived at Valley on February 16 and at least 21 of the 23 new Prefects have arrived in the UK. The arrival of the new aircraft has seen changes in the existingfleet of trainers used under the previous Ascent-run scheme.

Grobs sold to Finland

Four Grob G115EA training aircraft, formerly operated in Royal Air Force markings by Babcock International under contract to the UK MoD, arrived at Jyväskylä-Tikkakoski Airport, Finland, on March 16, 2018. The aircraft, along with 24 others Grob G115s, will replace the surviving 28 L-70 Vinkas (of 30 obtained in the early 1980s) with the Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) Academy’s Hävittäjälentolaivue 41/3 (Flight Training Air Wing 41/3). Finland’s Defence Forces and Border Guards will use the Grobs for basicflying training including night, instrument meteorological conditions and aerobatics. An Ilmavoimat spokesman told AIR International: “Flight training begins with a primaryflight syllabus.

At this phase, students are conscripts selected for service with a reserve pilot officer course in the Air Force Academy. At the next phase, students have started their studies with a pilot track in the National Defence University. On completion of the Grob programme, cadets convert to the Hawk for fast jet training.”

Finland’s Defence Minister Jussi Niinisto authorised the Finnish Defence Forces’ Logistics Command on October 7, 2016 to acquire 28 second-hand Grob G115 elementary and basicflying training aircraft from Babcock Aerospace Limited. The deal included all necessary training on the type for Finnish instructors.

Delivery had been agreed to finish in 2017 withflying training starting on an unspecified date in 2018. Before that can happen and with an eye on Finland’s HX Fighter Programme, the Grobs will be modernised in Finland by Patria Aviation Oy with an avionics and communications systems upgrade and the installation of stateof- the-art digital glass cockpits.

The value of the 28 aircraft, minus the update package, was stated as €6.06 million; the aircraft are expected to remain in service for another 30 years.

Of the 28 former British trainers, 11 were configured as G115EAs, with the additional A in the designation standing for Advanced. The G115EA is fitted with a Garmin GNS 430W GPS system, digital horizontal situation indicator and digital engine monitoring instruments. An extra VHF aerial is fitted to the fuselage for the new GPS system.

British Grobs

Babcock’s forerunner, VT Aerospace Ltd operated five Grob G115D2 Heron aircraft registered G-BVHA, G-BVHB, G-BVHC, G-BVHD and G-BVHE in the early 1990s on behalf of the Royal Navy.

As part of a private finance initiative, VT Aerospace purchased 99 Grob G115Es for the UK MoD in 1998 for University Air Squadrons, Air Experience Flights and RAF Flying Training Squadrons (FTS) and 727 Naval Air Squadron. The Central Flying School received its first Tutors on September 13, 1999, and the Cambridge University Air Squadron (UAS), the first UAS to get the new aircraft, the following day. So successful was the Tutor that a follow-on order for a further 23 upgraded G115EAs was placed in 2009.

The tragic loss of three G115Es, two from Wales UAS and one from Oxford UAS in 2009 with the loss of three teenage cadets and their instructors resulted in an urgent operational requirement to fit traffic advisory service equipment, manufactured by Avidyne, to the remaining 119 aircraft. The £2.8 million safety upgrade was completed in December 2011, nine months before the deadline for the project’s completion.

The accidents left Babcock with a mixture of 96 G115Es and 23 G115EAs to fulfil the UK MoD’s Light Aircraft Flying Task. As well as the aircraft, which it owns, it provides the MoD with flying instructors, logistical support, fleet management and aircraft maintenance. The Tutors operated with Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and UAS markings, albeit with civilian registration numbers.

Under the new MFTS contract, which came into effect on April 1, 2018, the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force, 23 Grob G120TP Prefects are being acquired to conduct many of the roles previously performed by the Grob G115s, but principally elementary flying training. The introduction of the new machines resulted in a surplus of G115s, 28 of which have been sold to Finland.

Pastures new

The first Grob for Finland, G115EA G-CGKA (c/n 82301/E), arrived at its future base, Jyväskylä-Tikkakoski on November 22, 2016, and almost immediately was painted with the Finnish serial number GO-1. It will be treated as the pattern aircraft for the avionics upgrade programme.

It was six months until five more were ready for delivery with four aircraft, G115Es G-BYUG (c/n 82092/E), G-BYVS (c/n 82128/E), G-BYWJ (c/n 82145/E) and G-BYXN (c/n 82174/E) leaving Cranwell on May 24, 2017. The fifth in the batch, another G115E, G-BYUP (c/n 82101/E) left Cranwell the next day.

On September 25, 2017, five more G115Es set out on their twoday delivery flights: G-BYUA (c/n 82086/E), G-BYVJ (c/n 82120/E), G-BYVX (c/n 82133/E), G-BYWE (c/n 82140/E) and G-BYWT (c/n 82154/E).

Five aircraft, comprising three G115Es G-BYWC (c/n 82138/E), G-BYWN (c/n 82149/E) and G-BYVV (c/n 82131/E) and two G115EAs, G-CGKF (c/n 82306/E) and G-CGKI (c/n 82309/E), left Cranwell on October 20, 2017.

On October 25, two more G115Es set out from Cranwell for Finland: G-BYWP (c/n 82151/E) and G-BYXB (c/n 82162/E).

A group of six left for mainland Europe on November 20, 2017. The batch comprised only two G115Es, G-BYVT (c/n 82129/E) and G-BYXY (c/n 82181/E). The remaining four were G115EAs: G-CGKB (c/n 82302/E), G-CGKC (c/n 82303/E), G-CGKJ (c/n 82310/E) and G-CGKV (c/n 82321/E).

The final four of the 28 for Finland, all G115EAs, left on their delivery flights on March 14, 2018. The journey had been delayed until the worst of the European winter weather was over. The Grobs refuelled at Southend Airport, Essex, before crossing the English Channel: G-CGKM (c/n 82313/E), G-CGKO (c/n 82315/E), G-CGKT (c/n 82319/E) and G-CGKX (c/n 82323/E).

King Air trainers going civil

The transfer of the UKMFTS from the hands of Ascent to Affinity Flying Training Services has led to Serco returning the fleet of Beech King Airs it provided for the Royal Air Force to the UK civil aircraft register.

This is being done in anticipation of the introduction into service of the Embraer Phenom T1, which will replace the ageing turboprops. Serco provided ten King Airs, seven Beech 200 King Airs and three Beech B200GT King Airs to the UK MoD. They were used by the Royal Air Force’s 45 Squadron at RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire for multi-engine pilot training, as well as familiarisation and air experience for trainee rear crew or Weapon Systems Operators.

Pilot graduates went on to the RAF transport and tanker fleets, as well as the ISTAR community. The RAF referred to the Beech 200s as ‘Classics’. They have analogue cockpits like those found in the RAF’s basic trainer, the Tutor T1. The three Beech 200GTs, imaginatively referred to as ‘GTs’, are fitted with glass cockpits more relevant to the Atlas, C-17, Hercules, Sentinel or Voyager that students are most likely to move on to.

In late March, once their operational days with the RAF at Cranwell were over, owner-operator Serco flew the King Airs to a facility at Guernsey airport. The aircraft involved are: Beech 200 Super King Airs ZK451 (c/n BB- 1830), added to the UK civil register on March 21, 2018 as G-RAFK and ZK452 (c/n BB-1832) to G-RAFL the same day. Three others, ZK450, ZK453 and ZK454, were sold in 2014 and at the time of writing the re-registration dates for ZK455 and ZK456 are not known.

Beech B200GT King Airs ZK458 (c/n BY-32) became G-RAFD on March 23, 2018 and ZK460 (c/n BY-90) G-RAFU on March 11, 2018. ZK459 (c/n BY-36) has not yet been re-registered.