The Squirrel HT1 is used by the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) at RAF Shawbury, in Shropshire, for Single Engine Basic Rotary Wing (SEBRW) training with No 660 Squadron and Single Engine Advanced Rotary Wing (SEARW) training with No 705 Squadron.
The DHFS selected the Squirrel helicopter, manufactured by Eurocopter, as a replacement for the Gazelle when the School became operational in 1997, and since that date the 26 aircraft in service have amassed over 100,000 hours flying time between them.
Powered by a single Ariel 1D1 gas-turbine engine, which drives a conventional three-blade main rotor and a twin-blade tail rotor, the Squirrel is an ideal platform to teach the rudiments of rotary-wing flying. It has an endurance of three hours, a cruising speed of 115 kts (132mph) and seating for a crew of two and four passengers. The Squirrel can be configured either to meet the demands of SEBRW and SEARW, or to meet any secondary transport or communication tasks.
The initial flying-training course with No 660 Squadron, the Army Air Corps (AAC) element of DHFS, teaches basic rotary-wing skills and emergency handling, culminating in a first solo and a handling check prior to SEARW training. The SEARW phase of the course, run by 705 Squadron, the Fleet Air Arm element of DHFS, is where basic skills are consolidated and developed into more applied techniques.
The syllabus includes nonprocedural instrument flying, basic night flying, low-level and formation flying, mountain flying and an introduction to winching for RN students. In addition to DHFS, the Squirrel HT1 is used by the Central Flying School (Helicopter) Squadron at RAF Shawbury for instructor training.