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British Army opens helicopter flying to all ranks

While the role of pilot in the British Army had earlier been restricted to warrant officers and commissioned officers, the service has now allowed all ranks from private to apply. (Janes/Patrick Allen)

The British Army has opened up helicopter flying to all ranks, announcing on 1 February that privates can now become pilots.

While Army Air Corps (AAC) pilots had earlier been drawn from either the officer ranks or from the most senior non-commissioned rank of warrant officer, all soldier rank personnel are now eligible to fly helicopters (the service no longer operates manned fixed-wing aviation).

“Soldiers from across the army now have the opportunity to apply to become an army helicopter pilot much earlier in their careers,” the AAC said. “The minimum rank to become an army pilot has been lowered to private, with a recommendation for promotion to lance corporal”.

As the AAC noted, this move, which is part of the wider Project Morden personnel transformation initiative, represents one of the biggest upheavals in the way the corps recruits, selects, and employs soldier pilots since its formation in 1957.

The AAC operates three primary helicopter types in the Leonardo Wildcat AH1, the AgustaWestland WAH-64D Apache AH1 (soon to transition to the Boeing AH-64E Apache), and the Aerospatiale Gazelle AH1 (soon to be replaced by the Airbus H135). It also operates a small number of Bell 212 and Airbus AS365 Dauphins that are soon to be retired and replaced under the UK's wider New Medium Helicopter programme.

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