Name: Dick Barton
Career Details and aviation experience:
Wing Commander Dick Barton MBE BSc, RAF (Retd), served as a helicopter pilot and instructor in the RAF for 32 years and is currently a civilian qualified helicopter instructor (QHI) on the Griffin (Bell 412) at the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS).
After finishing a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and a short period working as a stress engineer for British Aerospace I joined the RAF in 1982. Following officer training at RAF Cranwell and successful completion of Flying Selection at RAF Swinderby I completed Basic Flying Training on the Jet Provost Mk3A and Mk5A at RAF Church Fenton. I soon realised that I wasn’t cut out to be a jet pilot so volunteered and was successful in being selected for helicopters. I completed rotary wing training at RAF Shawbury on the Gazelle HT3 and Wessex HC2 and was awarded my wings in 1984. Following conversion onto the Puma I was posted to 230 Sqn based at RAF Gutersloh in Germany for 2½ years after which I returned to RAF Shawbury for QHI training.
On graduation from CFS(H) I was posted to 2(AFT) Squadron as a Wessex QHI which was followed by a short tour as a staff instructor on CFS(H) Squadron. On promotion to squadron leader I remained at Shawbury as the Deputy Chief Flying Instructor.
In 1994 I took command of 28(AC) Squadron based at RAF Sek Kong, Hong Kong, again flying the Wessex HC2. I remained there until the handover of the territory to the PRC 1997 and I consider myself privileged to be the last OC of the last RAF squadron to be permanently based in the Far East.
On return to the UK I was grounded! The RAF decided that enough was enough and I should be punished with ground duties so having attended the Basic and the Advanced Staff Courses back to back I was posted into the Directorate of the Air Staff in the MoD. Fortunately that job came with promotion to wing commander. After just 1 year in post I escaped to be the Chief Flying Instructor at the DHFS where I flew the Squirrel and Griffin.
With a future career behind a desk looming, I retired from the RAF in 2004 and took up reserve service on 28(AC) Squadron as a QHI on the Merlin HC3/3A Operational Conversion Flight. 5 years and 3 stints in Iraq later my contract expired and I rejoined the regular RAF once more, this time as a squadron leader QHI instructing on the Griffin on Sixty(R) Squadron at DHFS where I became Training Officer. In 2013 I became a civilian QHI and remain on Sixty(R) Squadron.
I currently have over 7000 flying hours, almost exclusively on helicopters.
Dick at work:
Worst aviation moment:
Without doubt the moment I lost the 3rd helicopter in my formation. I was the leader of a formation of 3 Gazelles returning from a liaison visit to a helicopter training unit in Italy. We encountered an area of freak weather in the bay of Genoa and whilst attempting to make landfall in almost zero forward visibility due to the rain the pilot of the last helicopter in the trail became disorientated and impacted the sea. It seemed like an eternity after hearing the Mayday call that the visibility improved sufficiently for us to make out the 3 liferafts of the crew. That was a very wet night in the bar!
Best aviation moment:
Another formation moment. Leading the 6 Wessex of 28 Squadron on their final flight through the New Territories, along the Chinese border and finally along the “fragrant” harbour, with flags and ensigns flying, to celebrate the end of the Squadron’s and RAF presence in Hong Kong.
Dick at play: