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Fleet Air Arm’s Jack makes history as new helicopter pilot instructor

23 February 2024
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One minute you’re beginning your career as a Fleet Air Arm helicopter pilot… the next you’re a qualified instructor, helping others follow your career path.

Ok, so it’s not quite as easy as that, but Lieutenant Jack Cook has made a little piece of UK aviation history.

He’s the first Qualified Helicopter Instructor (known through the air world simply as QHI) to complete the Central Flying School course – having only finished his own training as a pilot just months earlier.

Normally years – and a few tours of duty with Fleet Air Arm squadrons – pass between a pilot completing training and returning to school to become instructors.

Jack’s become the first military pilot to skip that part with instructors impressed by his flying skill, but also his ability to impart his knowledge and pass it on to colleagues… just the traits needed by a qualified instructor.

Jack has actually been flying with the Navy since 2012 – just not as a pilot. He actually joined the service as a direct-entry aircrewman, earning his wings on the Merlin Mk3 with 28 Squadron RAF in 2014.

He spent the next four years with Commando Helicopter Force as an aircrewman, serving with both Merlin squadrons and the Wildcats of 847 NAS, deploying around the world: Norway, the Mediterranean and Caribbean, the latter providing humanitarian aid in the wake of Hurricane Irma which wrecked British and Commonwealth territories in the region in September 2017.

Selected for the Officer Corps and training as a pilot the following year, Jack could have been flying F-35 stealth fighters (or possibly US F-18 Super Hornets and RAF Typhoons on exchange) from his grading assessment and element flying training with 727 and 703 Naval Air Squadrons respectively.

Instead, he stuck with his passion: helicopters.

Having spent the past two months teaching British and German trainees - some of whom may have never been in an aircraft before) – I can confirm it is a very rewarding role.”

Lieutenant Jack Cook

On joining RAF Shawbury to undertake pilot training on the Juno helicopter, Jack’s previous aviation background came to the fore; he flourished both in the simulator and the ‘real thing’ and had the capacity to support his fellow course mates through the basic and advanced phases, earning title of best overall trainee on 670 Squadron AAC.

During his time as an ab-initio trainee, staff also began to recognise his potential as an instructor and so, after a short period as a staff pilot with No 1 Flying Training School to build up his flying experience and captaincy, Jack began training to become a Qualified Helicopter Instructor in August…

 … and four months later he graduated from the Central Flying School – the world’s oldest military flying training school in the world, formed in 1912.

Since the end of January he’s been sharing his knowledge with the next generation of pilots (Fleet Air Arm, RAF, Army Air Corps and Luftwaffe), instructing the basic syllabus and working towards a B1 QHI (which means he’s successfully passed a probationary period and an associated exam), before eventually returning to his roots on the Commando Helicopter Force at Yeovilton.

“I feel honoured to be given the chance to begin my instructional career at this stage,” Jack said. “The bar for passing the Central Flying School course is high regardless of experience levels, but the opportunities afforded to me by 1FTS to consolidate my captaincy – aircraft commander experience – coupled with the standard of instruction has enabled me to pass the course.

“Having spent the past two months teaching British and German trainees - some of whom may have never been in an aircraft before) – I can confirm it is a very rewarding role.”

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