A Hampshire-based Boeing-qualified helicopter instructor has accomplished a milestone of 10,000 flight hours throughout his career.

Gary Smith is based at the Army Aviation Centre, located at Middle Wallop. Smith supports both experienced and newly qualified Army pilots converting to the Boeing-built AH-64E Apache helicopter. He also conducts refresher courses and trains future instructors.

“A typical day involves a combination of live aircraft flying or simulation practice in the Apache Longbow Crew Trainer – a high-fidelity synthetic environment that supports aircrew training, sorties, and mission rehearsals,” he said.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Smith joined the British Army in the 1970’s, straight after finishing school. His passion for flying grew when he switched from ground crew to becoming an observer in the Army Air Corps and was initially stationed in Germany before being deployed to Northern Ireland.

Helicopter instructor

“I joined the Army as a soldier but was able to complete a number of aptitude tests and eventually became a pilot in 1986, which was when my flight hours really started to accumulate,” he said.

As he continued to rise through the ranks, his flight hours also increased. Achieving 10,000 flying hours equates to approximately 7,000 to 8,000 individual flights. When including his time as aircrew before becoming a pilot, Smith’s total flight hours in a helicopter amount closer to 11,500.

“I’ve had the privilege of flying each evolution of the Apache – from the AH-64A to today’s AH-64E, following my initial conversion training in the early 2000s at the U.S. Army Aviation Warfighting Center Flying School in Fort Rucker (now Fort Novosel),” he said. “I left the military in 2011 and have continued in flying instructor roles ever since.”

Rob Miles, Boeing’s UK Chief Flying Instructor for the AH-64E, acknowledged Smith’s achievement and his dedication to sharing his experience with the next generation of helicopter pilots.

“As Gary demonstrates, what sets Boeing’s military training apart is the high caliber of instructors and training professionals within our ranks,” Miles said. “I commend Gary for the remarkable feat of 10,000 hours – an accomplishment that is almost unheard of in this field – and thank him for the training and inspiration he provides to students and peers while training the next generation of British Army pilots.”

Smith’s accolades include being one of only a select few Central Flying School A1 QHI currently instructing within the British military and a Master Air Pilot as awarded by the Honourable Company of Air Pilots.
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