Central Flying School History
The Beginning
Inter-War Years
Little Rissington
Up to Date
CFS Helicopters
CFS Mascot

Formation Aerobatics
CFS Formations
CFS 1985


Click on red text and pictures


Between the Wars

As a result of a further reorganization in 1926, CFS moved from RAF Upavon to RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire.
The Air Ministry decided that in between the courses the staff should visit flying training schools to check whether the
system and standard of instruction was being maintained. This was the beginning of the Examining Wing. In 1927, a Refresher Flight was formed and pilots from all over the world were being trained in some form of flying at CFS. In 1928 a team of CFS instructors (Boyle, Clark, Hunt Whitmore and Atcherley) achieved the first outside loops. In 1929 staff instructors flying the Supermarine S6 aircraft won the Schneider Trophy for Great Britain and 2 years later, flying the uprated S6B, won the trophy again thus enabling Great Britain to retain it 'for all time'. During this period Pilot Officer Frank Whittle, while serving at CFS, patented the first jet engine.

It was at about this time that the idea of a formation aerobatics team was borne and a five-man team led by Flight Lieutenant D'Arcy Greig began displaying in de Havilland Genet Moths. Their repertoire was quite extensive and would do the Service justice at Farnborough even today. Formation aerobatic displays by CFS instructors became a traditional item at the Hendon Air Displays in the early thirties and the team of five red and white striped Tutors led by Flight Lieutenant, later Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Constantine, made a great impression in 1933 with its inverted formation flying.

The idea of an annual get-together of past and present members of the staff was born in 1930, and the first dinner was held at RAF Wittering. (The CFSA was created many years later in 1951) Among the 40 to 50 who attended were Air Vice-Marshal Sir Godfrey Paine, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Trenchard, the then Air Marshal Sir John Salmond , the second Chief of Air Staff and Air Vice Marshal Longmore. The Central Flying School Association developed from this beginning and now has a membership of over 750. The colours of the Central Flying School Association were chosen with the multi-service genesis in mind, green to represent land and the Army, purple to represent engineering branch of the Navy, from which most of the original engineering staff had been drawn, silver for the River Avon and black for then unknown future. Less respectful persons have preferred to believe that black stands for the old tarred huts at Upavon, purple for the first Commandant's language and green for the innocence of his Chief Staff Officer. These colours are shown on the logo at the top of the page!

The following year CFS became one of the first Royal Air Force units to receive its own armorial bearings. Briefly, the Arms symbolize the origin and work of the CFS. The Pelican represents a seat of learning; the Crown and Tower the School's naval and military genesis; the pilot's brevet, the anchor and sabre the 3 Services. The White and Blue wavy lines serve as a reminder of the original site of the CFS that was close to the banks of the River Avon. The motto can be interpreted to mean "Our Teaching is Everlasting". However, the school has been running refresher courses for some years now. The Pelican is a strong aviator, despite its shape and there is not truth in the rumour, freely spread about the CFS students, that it was chosen because of the size of its mouth and its poor flying performance.

By 1930 interest was being shown in 'pilotage without exterior visibility'. Flight Lieutenant W E P Johnson was sent on a course at the Farman Factory near Paris and on his return he pioneered the teaching of instrument flying in the Royal Air Force. By 1934 the international situation had deteriorated to such an extent that Mr Ramsey MacDonald , the Prime Minister, announced a new expansion programme for the Services. CFS was again enlarged and became a unit within Flying Training Command and moved back to RAF Upavon in 1935. The expansion continued but the Air Council realised that, if war came, all the training situations in the United Kingdom would not be able to meet the aircrew requirements and the Commandant, Group Captain James Robb, was sent across the Atlantic to pave the way for training facilities in Canada.

With powerful and modern aircraft coming into service and squadrons re-equipping rapidly, a new role for CFS began to develop. Careful conversion training was necessary during the transition form comparatively slow bi-planes to the new generation of Hurricanes and Spitfires and standard publications explaining the handling characteristics of the new machines required. Thus 'Pilots Notes' were evolved. It was decreed that one machine of each new type would in future be sent to RAF Upavon to enable its characteristics to be assessed and written up in the form of Pilots Notes for squadron use. In 1938 Examining Wing was formed.