Customer Flying Training department strengthens Leonardo UK’s world-class helicopter service

03 October 2023

For many years, the Leonardo Helicopters UK facility in Yeovil has been delivering excellence – not just through its multi-role platforms, but also through its customer-focused training. With the appointment of its inaugural Chief Flying Instructor, we look at how the Customer Flying Training department enables excellence in delivery

At seven years old, Richard Fox knew he wanted to fly. As the son of a Royal Air Force (RAF) helicopter pilot, his aspiration to follow his father’s example began early on. Upon finishing his A-Levels, Richard joined the RAF and spent the next 12 years working his way through the training system and onto the frontline, culminating in becoming a Qualified Helicopter Instructor on AW101 Merlin Mk3 and Mk3A helicopters, travelling the world and gaining unique experiences.

Today, he is the Chief Flying Instructor for Leonardo Helicopters UK after spending almost a decade with the company, initially in Saudi Arabia, and subsequently as the Lead Instructor for the Norwegian AW101 All-Weather Search and Rescue helicopter in Sola, Norway.

In a one-on-one conversation with Richard, we gain insight into Customer Flying Training and the importance of the customer experience.

What does Leonardo’s Customer Flying Training department deliver?

The Customer Flying Training team is a complex part of the end-to-end capabilities that we provide in Yeovil, the Home of British Helicopters. Comprising of Pilot Instructors and Technical Crew Instructors, who look after missions system and cabin training, we deliver world-class training to qualified customer aircrews, and instruct them on the operation of aircraft they will be flying. Alongside this, the team also ensures that customer aircrew are trained together, wherever possible, to gain the maximum benefit.

What does your new role as Chief Flying Instructor entail?

My routine as Chief Flying Instructor varies from day-to-day. Primarily, I am responsible for leading our team of instructors located around the globe, and ensuring that they are well supported. I also keep up-to-date with their flying activities, and will be visiting them periodically wherever they are deployed.

As a transnational team, it is imperative that all my colleagues have a consistent stream of feedback and communication, which allows them to do their own job to the best of their ability. Aside from this, working hand-in-hand with the Flying Training Manager, I confer with our aircraft programme managers, interface with Engineering and Customer Support about our platforms, manage risk and safety requirements, and review any upcoming courseware developments or contracts. I also get involved with customer training regularly, briefing crews and delivering training alongside my colleagues.

What is the significance of your new role?

With customers and instructors located across the world, my role offers the opportunity to build better links between all the areas I oversee, and consequently enhance our services and customer experience by making them seamless. As the department requires input from many other teams who work with the aircraft, I also focus on how we can develop and hone our interdepartmental collaboration. This increased engagement with specialist colleagues allows us to train customer aircrew in a more efficient manner. As a company, we should all be proud of our achievements to date, and my new role aims to improve upon these successes so that we continue providing world-class instruction.

What do you think makes our Customer Flying Training unique?

Operating within the context of an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), and the UK’s only onshore helicopter manufacturer, Customer Flying Training at Leonardo in Yeovil is distinctive within the industry. We work alongside those who design and build the aircraft, which gives us a comprehensive understanding of our product. This makes it easy for us to call upon colleagues to garner more knowledge about systems, raise any potential issues and quickly feed back into the overall business operation.

Due to the through-life relationships with our customers, we tailor training programmes to match the specific needs that are outlined at the initiation of a contract. This end-to-end flow of communication means we are naturally growing and enhancing our services; we can support our customers along every step of the process, passing on our in-depth knowledge of the platform to the aircrews we instruct.

How do you see Customer Flying Training changing with industry?

Leonardo’s Customer Flying Training team is continually adapting to changes in training technology. Flight simulators are used regularly throughout the industry, but we also offer other training devices that use different media – from desktop simulations through virtual and mixed-reality, to full motions Level D simulators. Our training devices use re-hosted aircraft software and data which enhance the effectiveness and authenticity of the training delivered.

These dynamic, fully integrated systems guarantee that customer students receive training using the best and most cost-effective immersive technologies that prepare them for their future operations. Our team will continue providing the latest in training devices and courseware to enhance customer experience.

Welcome to Leonardo in Yeovil

Welcome to Leonardo in Yeovil

Leonardo’s association with Yeovil dates back more than a century, since the Westland Aircraft Works was established in 1915. Today, Leonardo Helicopters is based in Yeovil, with nearly 2,800 employees producing helicopters on site such as the Super Lynx 300, AW159 Wildcat and AW101 Merlin.

The Home of British Helicopters

Designed, built and supported by Leonardo in the UK, our commercial and military helicopters empower aircrews around the world to enhance operations in defence of our national security and deliver life-saving care when responding to emergency and rescue calls.

The Home of British Helicopters