The Honourable Company of Air Pilots incorporating Air Navigators

The Central Flying School Trophy

Awarded to an individual, group or organisation that has made an outstanding contribution toward the achievement of excellence in the delivery of flying training or instructional standards.


2018 awarded twice to:  Squadron Leader John Benson-Cooper RNZAF and to 653 Squadron Army Air Corps


Squadron Leader John Benson-Cooper RNZAF

John Benson-CooperThis year No. 42 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force is celebrating its 75th year since being established in Rongotai, Wellington. Impressively just under half of the Squadron's history has the name 'John Benson-Cooper' embedded in its pages. For the past 36 years Sqn Ldr Benson-Cooper has dedicated his military career to the continued development of multi-engine fixed wing pilot training in the RNZAF.

Sqn Ldr Benson-Cooper has held various roles through-out No. 42 Squadron, most of which have revolved around the development and delivery of ground, flight and synthetic training. ln each role he has championed instruction by leading the development of standards, techniques and content for every course that he has been involved in. ln both the air, and on the ground, Sqn Ldr Benson-Cooper has continuously delivered a high standard of instCFS Trophy BensonCooperruction and has done so with professionalism, gusto and a relentless commitment to upholding the highest of flying standards.

For many years Sqn Ldr Benson-Cooper has been the lead A-Category flying instructor for the Squadron, acting as a Central Flying School agent in assessing the instructional standards of the unit's flying instructors. He remains an expert in flight instruction specific to multi-engine flying and his instructional techniques have solidified into Squadron documentation which are now taught to every Squadron flying instructor. Sqn Ldr Benson-Cooper is dedicated in ensuring No. 42 Squadron delivers the leading edge of flight training in the RNZAF and maintains a proactive cycle of improvement for each course the Squadron delivers. He regularly challenges routine, continuously striving for improvement and raising the standards of all of those around him.

Sqn Ldr Benson-Cooper's sphere of influence stretches wide across the RNZAF. Nearly every serving fixed wing pilot has at some point in their careers been instructed by Sqn Ldr Benson-Cooper. His name is synonymous with flying instruction in the RNZAF, and is normally the first reference in multi-engine fixed wing instruction. As Sqn Ldr Benson-Cooper approaches 10,000 hours of 42 Squadron flying, it cannot be denied that there has never been a more influential instructor to serve on the Squadron. His commitment is unyielding, and his influence will continue for many years beyond his eventual departure, making Squadron Leader John Benson-Cooper a worthy recipient of the Central Flying School Trophy.




653 Squadron Army Air Corps

653 Squadron AAC USS Midway


Over the last 10 years 653 Sqn has trained and prepared all Apache aircrew for immediate deployment initially on Op HERRICK and then to hold the highest readiness for tasks across the spectrum of warfare, at the heart of Army and Defence capability. 

Exceptional training standards underpinned the Apache’s and Attack Helicopter Force’s (AHF) success on operations in Afghanistan and Libya where the Apache became the close support aircraft of choice and was faced with the most challenging of engagements requiring the judgement, procedures and skills first taught on 653 Sqn.  The Apache Conversion to Role (CTR) training course remains the ‘crown jewels’ of Apache capability and its graduates continue to excel.  By delivering fully qualified operational aircrew to the frontline Sqns, it is possible to safely sustain a continuous readiness model and deliver the most challenging of collective training in support to UKSF, 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3 Division.

Success is a result of ethos, and its unrelenting pursuit of excellence has been critical to the Sqn winning the numerous battles facing any training organisation in uncertain and austere times.  653 Sqn attracts vocationally driven and dedicated instructors with deep operational experience in all environments.  This team has adapted the CTR syllabus to meet changing threats and developing doctrine.  For example, the Sqn recently integrated live GPS jamming training on RAF Spadeadam, and invented a triangulation technique for locating emitters.  The Sqn provides experts on Weapons, Electronic Warfare and Tactics, Techniques and Procedures.  It has SMEs in urban and contested, degraded and operationally limited (CDO) environments.  A Sqn team was tasked recently to visit and advise a UK ally on Apache employment countering an insurgent threat.  The Sqn provides tireless support to Army Capability, DE&S, RTSA and DOSG as well as industry partners.

CFS Trophy 653sqnAACInnovation has been critical to success.  Simulators have been networked and pushed hard to expose crews to the most challenging of threats, missions and environments.  The military simulator instructors double-hat as Range Conducting Officers for Sqn live firing training and fill key AHF SME roles in SERE and JPR.  Innovation has also been shown by delivering flying instruction using a mix of QHIs and non-CFS Weapons and EW instructors – exploiting the freshness of frontline aircrew instructors and leaning on the supervisory and instructional skills of CFS trained QHIs.  All-student ‘mutual’ pairs missions are used to generate confidence – the staff monitor crew performance in real-time with the Collective Training System and through After-Action Reviews of sight and sensor imagery.  The Sqn is well integrated with civilian aircraft engineers, civilian simulator staff and civilian QHIs.  Fully established with hardworking military ground crew and communications specialists as well as a support team, the Sqn can deploy for long periods in the UK and to the USA where it exploits extensive desert ranges to deliver operational weapons and environmental training.  The Sqn also continues to innovate in areas of electronic student performance monitoring and record keeping.

The pressure on the Sqn to deliver has been relentless.  During Op HERRICK crews were required just in time for operational deployments, and currently Apache aircrew growth remains critical ahead of Apache E-Model transition.  The Sqn has never failed - it absorbed the pressure placed on it with stoic humour, prioritising and showing incredible flexibility in the face of financial, manning, weather, serviceability and Air Transport challenges.  The Sqn has an impeccable safety record and was recently graded very highly by the CFS Agents in Army Aviation Standards.  With a real heart for community engagement the Sqn enjoys the freedom of Aldeburgh, always finding time to support community events and charities.

653 Sqn’s professionalism and work ethic have been exceptional and its contribution remains utterly critical to the current and future success of the AHF.  It is accordingly awarded the Central Flying School Trophy.


Previous Winners:

2005/06 Captain Derek Jones

2006/07 Squadron Leader Anthony N Clements

2007/08 Squadron Leader Peter Howlett

2008/09 Hawk Synthetic Training Facility RAF Valley

2009/10 Squadron Leader Selwyn Williams

2010/11 Captain Dieter Harms

2011/12 Alexander John Hurrell BA cfs

2012/13  The Royal Air Force Search and Rescue Training Unit (SARTU) RAF Valley

2013/14 Ian Douglas Fogarty AFC qfi

2014/15 Royal Air Force Puma HC2 Aircrew Training Team

2016  Tayside Aviation Ltd

2017  Wing Commander Harry Palmer

2018  Squadron Leader John Benson-Cooper RNZAF

        653 Squadron Army Air Corps