INAS 561 – Helicopter Training School
Until 1971 the Indian Navy’s air arm was restricted mainly to Carrier borne aviation – basically catapult launched aircraft and the SAR flight. Naval helicopter pilots used to graduate and learn the ‘Rotary ropes’ from Cambatta Aviation on Hughes 300 helicopters, and thereafter, on the Allouette at INS Garuda. A need was felt for a completely Naval oriented approach to helicopter flying, which involved carrier borne operations, survey operations and SAR operations at Sea. This, finally, took shape with the commissioning of the Naval Helicopter Training School as INAS 561 on 15 Sep 71 at INS Garuda, Cochin. The first Squadron Commander was Lt Cdr SR Dasgupta.
Till the formal commissioning of the Helicopter Training School, INS Garuda was operating the Allouette and the Mi-4 helicopters. Soon the Mi 4s were returned to the IAF and the training of young naval helicopter pilots started off in professional earnest. The squadron birds were the Hughes 300 helicopters for basic training and the Allouettes for advanced training. The first Helicopter Conversion Course (HCC) consisted of three pilots – then, SLts Gyanendra Sharma, RHL Maini and US Ghura. To motivate the trainee pilots and to inculcate a spirit of competitiveness, His Excellency, the Governor of Kerala, Shri V Visvanathan instituted a rolling trophy for the best overall pilot in every course. This was followed in 1987 by the FOC -in -C East rolling trophy instituted by V Adm MK Roy for the pupil pilot adjudged best in flying training. To date these trophies continue to inspire generations of helicopter pilots. The squadron shifted to INS Rajali, Arakkonam on 15 Jun 92. The HTS completed twenty-five years of dedicated and fruitful service to naval aviation in Sep 95 and has been instrumental in shaping the helicopter arm of the Naval Aviation. Apart from imparting valuable training to budding helicopter pilots the HTS has also performed numerous life saving missions.