After completing elementary flying training, RAF students selected for rotary-wing training proceed to the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) at RAF Shawbury alongside their colleagues from the Royal Navy and Army. Basic and advanced helicopter flying is undertaken on new Squirrel HT1 and Griffin helicopters. For RAF students, training includes an advanced multi engine rotary-wing training course and a Search and Rescue introduction.
The aircraft itself is a modern version of the famous 'Huey' family of helicopters used by many armed forces around the world. The Griffins used by the UK forces entered service in 1995 at the newly-created Defence Helicopter School at RAF Shawbury replacing Gazelle and Wessex helicopters used in the flying training and search and rescue training roles.
Four aircraft are now in use with No 84 Squadron at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, having replaced the squadron's Wessex helicopters in the search and rescue role during 2003.
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Formed as a
training unit at Beaulieu on 7 January 1917, Number 84 Squadron joined the other RFC fighter squadrons
in France in September and immediately began offensive patrols over
the Western Front with its SE5As. During 1918, the unit gained a well-deserved
reputation for its ability to destroy enemy observation balloons. It was during
this time that Captain WA Beauchamp Proctor DSO MC DFC was awarded the VC for
his tenacity and courage throughout a two-month period of non-stop flying
between 8 August and 8 October 1918, during which he was credited with the destruction of 22
aircraft and 16 balloons.
No 84 Squadron
reformed in Egypt on 20 February 1953, this time as a transport squadron flying Valettas, and
these were employed on troop-drops during the Suez campaign in 1957. Three years later, the distinctive
Beverleys arrived, and these remained on strength until replaced by Andovers in
August 1967. These aircraft served until, following the British withdrawal from
the Middle East, the Squadron was disbanded in October 1971. On 17 January 1972, two Whirlwind detachments based in Cyprus were combined to form a new 84 Squadron, and the unit has
remained there ever since, receiving Wessex helicopters in 1982. In 1983, these aircraft were used to
evacuate UN peacekeeping troops from Beirut, and remained on standby to provide assistance to the
international force both on Cyprus and in the Near East. Then, in January 2003, No 84 finally ended Wessex operations with the retirement of the last four of the type
in RAF service. They have been replaced by Search and rescue-equipped Griffin