More Than 68 Years of Rotary Wing Training Excellence
Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHT (HT-8), based aboard Naval Air Station Whiting Field, is the United States Navy's oldest helicopter training squadron, and also bears the honor of being the oldest helicopter squadron in continuous Naval service. For more than sixty-eight years the squadron's motto has been "The Best Helicopter Pilots in the World are Trained Here." Its mission is to provide primary and advanced helicopter training for United States Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Allied Student Naval Aviators selected for rotary-wing designation.
Since the establishment of Helicopter Training Unit ONE (HTU-1) on December 3rd, 1950, the mission to train rotary wing aviators has remained the same, although the curriculum and aircraft utilized have evolved as the strategic importance and complexity of the fleet's helicopters has grown. The squadron designation changed one more time in 1957, to Helicopter Training Group ONE, before it was re-designated for the last time on July 1st, 1960. As the eighth training unit designated by the Naval Air Basic Training Command, the squadron became Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHT.
In 1962, the first student was simultaneously designated a Naval Aviator and helicopter pilot. Prior to this, advanced rotary wing training was only available to previously designated fixed wing Naval Aviators. In December of 1973, HT-8 moved to its present location at NAS Whiting Field. This move was coupled with the establishment of a sister squadron, Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHTEEN (HT-18). HT-8 was responsible for the basic helicopter instruction while HT-18 conducted the advanced instrument and tactics portion of the curriculum.
In October 1985, HT-8 and HT-18 became "mirror image" squadrons with both teaching the entire training syllabus. On November 1st, 1985, HT-8 designated its first Naval Aviator since moving to Whiting Field in 1972. In 2005, HT-8 and HT-18 began training tiltrotor students for the MV-22 “Osprey” pipeline after the standing up of VMMT-204, the first USMC Osprey Fleet Replacement Squadron. On May 25th, 2007, both HT-8 and HT-18 detached one third of their personnel to form Helicopter Training Squadron TWENTY-EIGHT (HT-28). In honor of their historical links to the original helicopter squadron, both sister squadrons retained the numeral eight in their designations.
HT-8 is staffed by 60 fleet experienced, active duty instructor pilots, drawn from the three sea-going services, 15 Navy and Marine Corps reserve instructor pilots from the Squadron Augment Unit, and eleven government civilians. During their six-month syllabus, 120 multi-service and allied Student Naval Aviators participate in 120 hours of ground school, 48 hours of flight simulator training, and 114 hours of actual flight training, prior to being designated instrument rated helicopter pilots.
HT-8 flies 24,000 flight hours and designates 180 new Unrestricted Naval Aviators annually to meet the fleet's manning requirements. In doing so, the men and women of the Eightballers are committed to preserving and upholding the standards of the 34,600 Naval Aviators who have been designated rotary wing pilots in the 68 years since the squadron's commissioning.
"The Best Helicopter Pilots in the World are Trained Here"