HL Deb 07 November 1996 vol 575 cc68-9WA
Lord HolmPatrick

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made in establishing the Defence Helicopter Flying School.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe)

In March 1995 my honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces outlined our plans, arising from the defence costs study, for the formation of a single, tri-Service school with a strong contractorised element to provide those aspects of helicopter basic flying training common to the three Services. The school will be established at RAF Shawbury and will commence training on 1st April 1997. I am now pleased to announce that we have awarded a 15 year contract to FBS Limited for the operation of the DHFS under contractor owned, government operated arrangements. FBS is a joint venture, UK company, comprising FR Aviation, Bristow Helicopters and SERCO and was formed specifically to bid for this contract. Collectively, the company has extensive experience of working with the Services; Bristow Helicopters and SERCO already provide services to Middle Wallop and RAF Shawbury respectively.

The school will have the capacity to train approximately 230 pilot, navigator and crewmen students a year from our three Services as well as a number from overseas. The helicopter fleet will consist of 38 AS350 Squirrel single engine and 9 Bell 412 twin engine helicopters. Seventy-six military and 45 civilian flying instructors will be employed at the School. FBS will be responsible for the provision and maintenance of the helicopter fleet, all ground-school and support facilities and the provision of the civilian flying instructors.

The DHFS project has been procured in line with the private finance initiative, thus demonstrating the Government's strong resolve to continue to achieve value for money in defence support and to concentrate resources on the front line. The formation of the DHFS, utilising more modern equipment and taking advantage of the efficiencies brought about through contractorisation will provide a value for money, high quality training facility for HM Forces well into the future. Compared with the current system of delivering training this represents a saving of some £80 million over 15 years