The UK Empire Test Pilots School gets a rotary-wing boost

By David Oliver

On 17 July Colin James, Airbus Helicopters’ UK Managing Director, formally handed over the latest Empire Test Pilot School (ETPS) H125 helicopter to Nic Anderson, Managing Director Air and Space, QinetiQ. Under the current modernisation programme, the test pilot flight school will receive four H125s, which will make up ETPS’ new generation, single-engine helicopter fleet. The H125s will replace the existing ETPS fleet of Westland-built Gazelle HT.2 helicopters.

All four ETPS H125 will be delivered following complex customisation by Airbus Helicopters UK design team, which equips the aircraft with a 3-axis autopilot, dedicated communications equipment and a traffic awareness system. In addition, the aircraft will be equipped with a Flight Test Instrumentation suite which, similar to Formula 1 telemetry data, transmits data to the ETPS base at Boscombe Down in real time allowing students, both in practical and class-based environments, to test and evaluate aircraft design and performance.

The H125s are entering directly into service under the newly established QinetiQ Civil Flying Organisation (QCFO), which for the first time enables QinetiQ to operate civil registered aircraft independently of other organisations. The ETPS will align with the new EASA flight test rating. Nick Lay, Operations Director, said: “We are making great strides in our strategy to set a new benchmark for Test Aircrew Training capability worldwide. The QCFO will complement the new aircraft by enabling us to use them to the greatest possible effect, as well as making ETPS courses available to customers who have never previously had access.”