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8 Flight Army Air Corps

8 Flight AAC (Army Air Corps) was a unit that provided helicopter support to the Special Air Service. In September 2013 it was redesignated as 658 Squadron AAC.

The unit was established in Asia in September 1957 as No. 8 Independent Reconnaissance Flight AAC. In 1964 it operated Alouette AH2 helicopters and Beaver AL1 light aircraft in Kenya and Somalia.

8 Flight was based in Aden during 1964 and 1967 where it flew Beaver AL1 light aircraft and Westland Scout AH1 helicopters.[1]

After the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics, 8 flight was assigned the role of supporting the 22nd Special Air Service (22 SAS) in its new counter terrorism (CT) role. A number of Scout helicopters were stationed at 22 SAS's base at Bradbury Lines, Hereford. The 'Special Air Service Flight' flew in support of the SAS counter terrorism team or 'Special Projects Team' (SP Team). This role included flying the SP Team command element to the scene of a terrorist incident and, if the siuation demanded it, deploying members of the SP Team directly onto the objective - which could include a terrorist-held building, hijacked airliner, train, bus or docked ship.

Westland Scout AH1
Image by Flickr user Tony Hisgett | used with thanks under Attribution 2.0 Generic License
A Scout AH1 helicopter of the type employed by 8 Flight. In the counter terrorism role, up to four members of the SAS Special Projects Team would ride on the outside of the helicopter, standing on its skids and secured by quick-release harnesses. Once over their objective, the Scout would either land, or affect a low hover so the troopers could jump off. A roping rig could be fitted to allow troopers to abseil or fast-rope down. Free-fall parachute jumps could also be made from the Scouts.

Sometime in the 1980s, the Scouts were replaced with Agusta A109A helicopters. 2 Of these were spoils of the Falklands Conflict. A further 2 Agustas were purchased.

8 flight Agusta A109 helicopters were decked out in civilian colours to allow for covert movement of SAS personel around the U.K. 8 Flight A109s were thought to have been fitted with secure radios and, when needed, a roping frame to support fast-rope insertions.

agusta a109 helicopter
One of the Agusta A109 helicopters operated by 8 Flight.
By Flickr user Mark Harkin | used under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

2 agusta a109 helicopters
2 8 Flight Agusta A109 helicopters at Glasgow Heliport, February 2009
By Flickr user Mark Harkin | used under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Agusta A109 Specifications

Crew 1 pilot (+ co-pilot if required)
Cargo capacity 7 passengers
Maximum speed 285 kph
Range 965 km
Max takeoff weight 3000 kg

8 Flight moved its base to to Netheravon in 1998 then in 2000 it relocated again to the new 22 SAS base at Credenhill Barracks, Hereford. While at Credenhill, the flight was bolstered by a small number of Gazelle AH1 helicopters.

Gazelle helicopter
AAC Gazelle helicopter - helicopters like this supported SAS and 14 Company operations in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Westland Gazelle AH1 Specifications

Crew 1 pilot (+ co-pilot if required)
Cargo capacity 4 passengers
Maximum speed 310 kph
Range 670 km
Max takeoff weight 1800 kg

In 2009 8 Flight replaced its Agusta A109A helicopters with the AS365N3 Dauphin 2.

Dauphin helcopter
A Dauphin 2 helicopter operated by 8 Flight, pictured at Glasgow airport, 2010. Like the A109As, 8 Flight Dauphins adopted civilian paint schemes in order to blend in with commerical air traffic
By Flickr user Mark Harkin | used under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Crew 1 pilot (+ 1 co-pilot if required)
Cargo capacity 8/9 passengers
Maximum speed 287 kph
Range 874 km
Max takeoff weight 4,200 kg

In 2013 8 Flight was expanded into 658 Squadron.

Info / Further Reading

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