Government Flying Service

1. Introduction

downloadThe Government Flying Service (GFS) operates a fleet of 11 aircraft, including nine helicopters and two fixed wing aeroplanes, which carry out a variety of services for the community of Hong Kong.

The GFS operates in accordance with civil aviation rules. It provides services to support the work of government departments and maintains a round-the-clock emergency air ambulance and search and rescue (SAR) coverage.

downloadThe GFS Base was relocated to Chek Lap Kok on 23 June 1998 to tie in with the opening of the new airport. As a government department, the GFS is supported and equipped by public funds and its aircraft are government property. There are 250 full-time civil servants responsible for operations, administration and engineering.

2. History of the GFS

The GFS began operating on April 1, 1993 following directly on from the disbandment of its predecessor, the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force. The GFS is one of seven Disciplined Services of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It is headed by the Controller who reports directly to the Secretary for Security.

The history of the GFS can be traced back to 1934 when the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC) established under its organization an air arm. With 2 officers and 72 other ranks, it was not a separate force in its own right. In addition to a normal military training programme, officers received training at Far East Flying Training School at Kai Tak.

By the end of 1936, the air arm had 3 flights, A F1t for ab-initio training, B F1t for active service and C F1t for reserves. Links were forged with the RAF and in 1937 an Avro Tutor was taken on loan. During the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941, the air arm fought as infantry alongside HKVDC's No 1 Company, but it did not have opportunity to fly yet.

The Hong Kong Defence Force (HKI)F) came into being in 1949 by the formation of 3 separate arms - the Hong Kong Regiment (Volunteers), the Hong Kong Royal Naval Reserve, and the Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force. This followed the enactment of the Hong Kong Defence Order which consolidated the volunteer military units under the command of HKDF Headquarters at Murray Barracks, Admiralty.

In 1951 King George VI approved the Royal prefix to HKDF. That year the Hong Kong Women's Auxiliary Air Force (11KWAAF) was formed alongside HKAAF.

The HKAAF was modelled on Britain's Royal Auxiliary Air Force and was equipped with 4 Auster and 4 Harvard trainers, plus 4 Spiffire piston engined fighters. Its main role was to provide fighter support. However, as the 1950s brought increasing security to the region, the Harvards and Spiffires were phased out.

The unit was the last air force within the Commonwealth to fly Spiffires operationally with RAF roundels and was the Commonwealth's last operational auxiliary air force. Others had been absorbed on independence in national forces.

The basic internal security role for RI-IKAM/G17S has never changed, and far from diminishing, is expanding its responsibility in scope and in usefulness. The real turning point came when Westland Widgeon helicopters arrived in 1958 to operate alongside Austers, the latter were used mainly for pilot training and reconnaissance.

Helicopters were proved to be invaluable. A Flying Doctor service was set up. The Widgeons were in service for 7 years during which they carried out more than 100 CASEVAC (casualty evacuation) operations, including the rescue of 44 crewmembers form a grounded ship in 1965. For this, one of the pilots, Sqn Ldr Danny Cheung, received the Air Force Cross. In 1962, he was awarded a Queen's Commendation for piloting his aircraft in darkness to rescue an injured climber from the slopes of Tai Mo Shan, the highest mountain in Hong Kong.

In 1965, the Widgeons were replaced by the French built Aerospatiale Alouette II1s and in 1970, a third machine was bought. In the same year, RHK13F was disbanded and the HKAAF and HKR(V) declared separate independence with Royal titles.

In line with continuing development, the Austers were retired in 1971 and in 1972 a Britten Norman Islander was delivered. The aircraft was equipped with full avionics and was used extensively for aerial survey work, advance pilot training and search and rescue operations in and around the Territory. Two Bulldog trainers were added in 1977 and a twin engined Cessna Titan in 1979. As an equipment update, the Titan was in turn replaced by 2 Beechcraft Super King Airs, and the Bulldogs were supplanted by 4 Slingsby Fireflies acquired in 1987 and 1988.

The Fireflies are used for basic training while the Super King Airs are used to conduct aerial survey work at high altitudes. Super King Airs also provide long range all weather Search-and-Rescue (SAR) and surveillance facilities.

After much hard work and following the loss of one helicopter in 1979, the Allouettes were replaced by 3 Dauphin 365Cls in August 1980 and these, in turn, were replaced by 8 Sikorsky S-76s in July 1990. The S-76s are advanced modem helicopters and can operate at night and in bad weather for SAR and other emergency operational purposes. Two Sikorsky S-70A Blachawk helicopters entered service n February 1993 to provide special support to the Police Tactical Unit (PTU) and Special Duties Unit (SDU); a third Blackhawk helicopter was taken on strength in late 1995.

In accordance with the spirit of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the future of Hong Kong, the RHKAAF was re-established from a military unit to one of the Hong Kong Government Disciplined Services under the title Government Flying Service (GFS), on 1 April 1993.

The following time line summarizes the above:

1934 HKVDC established

1949 HKDF established by combining HKR(V), HKRNR AND HKAAF

1951 HKDF became RHKDF and HKWAAF established

1970 RHKDF disbanded; HKR(V) & HKAAF became independent and became RHKR(V) & RI-IKAA17 respectively

1993 RI-IKAAF re-organized to become GFS

3. Organization Structure of the GFS

3.1 Organization Chart of GFS


3.2 Sections & Responsibilities

3.2.1 Controller

3.2.2 Administration Section

3.2.3 Flying Section

Helicopter Section

Aeroplane Section

Air Crewman Section

Operation Section

3.2.4 Quality Section

3.2.5 Engineering Section

3.3 The GFS Auxiliary Section - GFS(A)

In support of the permanent staff during emergencies are the small cadre of volunteers under the GFS Auxiliary Section - GFS(A), who must fulfill a minimum of fourteen days of training each year. Members of the GFS(A) represent all walks of life and many different professions.

The GFS(A) is commanded by the Senior Auxiliary Member (SAM) who is responsible to the Controller for the administration and the maintaining of the esprit de corps of the GFS(A).

4. Aircraft of the GFS

The GFS operates a mixed fleet of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Two twin-engineed Beech Super King Air fixed wing aircraft are specially modified for day and night SAR duties, special police tasks and aerial survey. These two aircraft will be replaced by two Jetstream 41 fixed wing aircraft in December 1998. There are nine helicopters, six of which are Sikorsky S76 aircraft which are used for various tasks including SAR. Finally, there are three S70 Black Hawk helicopters which are used mainly by the Police.

4.1 Beech Super King Air B200C

Type : Light twin Turbo-prop multi-purpose aircraft

downloadAircraft Registration : B-HZM


4.2 Jetstream J-41

In the early part of 1996, a decision was made to retire the Super King Airs which download have served proudly with the GFS and the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force for almost ten years. The search for a suitable replacement began immediately. Tenders were sent out and manufacturers from around the world converged on Hong Kong to submit their best proposal. After a lengthy and heated bidding war, the British Aerospace Jetstream J-41 emerged victorious. The price tag for the two new aircraft was HKD$140 million. After the relocation of the GFS to its new Headquarters at Chek Lap Kok, the department will be accepting delivery of the aircraft in December 1998. Once the J-41 becomes operational, the GFS will be able to go further, faster, remain on scene longer, and carry more life saving equipment than the current Super King Airs.

4.3 Sikorsky S76 A+ / C

Type : Medium transport helicopter for general purpose & Search and Rescue (SAR) mission.

Aircraft Registration :

downloadS76A+ B-HZA (General Purpose)

B-HZD (Search and Rescue)

B-HZE (Search and Rescue)

B-HZF (Search and Rescue)


S76C B-HZG (General Purpose)

B-HZH (General Purpose)

4.4 Sikorsky S-70 Blackhawk

Type : Medium utility transport helicopter.


Aircraft Registration : B-HZI



5. Services and Operations of the GFS

5.1 Normal Operation

downloadThe unit's main duty is to provide helicopter and fixed wing aeroplane flying support, seven days a week, to the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The Hong Kong Police make frequent use of the unit's helicopters for a variety of tasks including the movement of personnel, traffic monitoring and communications. Regular patrols are flown with a Marine Police inspector on board, searching for illegal immigrants. The three S70 Blackhawk helicopters, two commissioned in 1993 and one in 1995, have further strengthened the flying support to the police by providing an increased lifting capability.

downloadGFS aeroplanes also operate far out to sea in support of the Narcotics Bureau of the police searching for or tracking suspected drug-smuggling trawlers. These operations result in either deterring trawlers from reaching Hong Kong or facilitating arrest and seizure.

The Department of Health makes regular use of the unit's aircraft in providing the flying doctor and flying dentist services catering for outlying village communities in inaccessible parts of the New Territories.

Other duties include the surveying of ships suspected of discharging oil in Hong Kong waters. Photographic surveys are carried out for the Survey and Mapping Office of the Lands Department, for map-making and development planning in the territory.

Other government departments that make frequent use of helicopters are the Home Affairs Department, Marine Department, Civil Aviation Department and Information Services Department. The Chief Executive also makes use of helicopters for official visits to outlying parts of Hong Kong.

Tasks performed for the Civil Aviation Department include the testing of existing runway visual aids. These flights involve night photography of the lighting on the approaches to check their serviceability.

The work undertaken by the unit for important visitors is considerable. As most of these visitors wish to see as much of Hong Kong in as short a time as possible, only helicopters can fulfil this need. Members of the Royal Family and government ministers are often carried by the GFS during their visits.

5.2 Search and Rescue (SAR)

downloadOne of the major responsibilities of the GFS lies with SAR operations. Generally, the area of responsibility is within the 400-mile radius of the Hong Kong Flight Information Region.

However, to facilitate mounting SAR operations outside Hong Kong waters, the GFS regularly carries out exercises to test the response and joint efforts between the territory rescue units and those of neighbouring countries, such as the Japanese Maritime Service, the US Coast Guard and rescue services in China.

5.3 Emergencies

downloadBoth during and following a typhoon or other natural disasters, the GFS is kept extremely busy. Apart from search and rescue operations, the unit would carry government officers to survey flooding and damages to property and crops, as well as air-lifting supplies and flying casualties to hospital.

Reconnaissance flights after a typhoon are designed to pinpoint areas in need of help as soon as the weather improves. Relief flights will be carried out accordingly.

A 24-hour stand-by service is provided by the GFS. The unit can have a helicopter in the air in under 20 minutes after receiving an emergency call. The average time required for a helicopter to arrive at the casualty pick-up point upon receiving the call is under 30 minutes.

The usual night emergencies include lifting seriously ill patients to hospital from outlying clinics. However, dawn searches for lost or injured hikers and climbers are all too frequent. Such operations sometimes require the winching of people from inaccessible places in the rocky hills of the New Territories or from the many outlying islands, often under bad weather conditions. In 1997, 1,428 casualties were flown to hospital by the unit's helicopters. The majority of the casualties were flown to hospital from the outlying islands. Operations involving winching of casualties from ships by day or night have become fairly commonplace for the evacuation of injured merchant seamen.

download The Sikorsky S76 and S70 helicopters are also used for their fire fighting capabilities which have been put to good use in countryside fire suppression operations. These were mounted in conjunction with the Agriculture and Fisheries Department and the Fire Services Department. In 1997, the helicopters responded to 55 fire-fighting call-outs.

6. Other Activities of the GFS

6.1 Pilot Recruitment and Training

The GFS is progressing in its programme to train locally recruited pilots. 28 local pilots are currently undergoing various stages of training, which range from basic to advanced level instructor training.

The basic entry requirement for a Cadet Pilot is that the incumbent should possess matriculation, and have good physique and eyesight in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization standards. There is at present no plan to recruit Cadet Pilots, however; the unit will advertise in local newspapers if and when vacancies arise.

6.2 Air Crewman Training

The Air crewman Section has completed its localization programme in January 1998. Not only does GFS train the air crewman, but also Qualified Crewman Instructors. Advanced medical training programme for the air crewman is on-going to provide better air medical evacuation service to the public.

By the nature of their duties involving in rescuing hikers and survivors in hazardous situations, ten of the thirty-five air crewmen have received various bravery and gallantry Commendations in past rescue missions.

6.3 Engineering Development

The Engineering Section of the GFS maintains the entire fleet of aircraft and support equipment, and provides engineering services in accordance with the standards of an Approved Hong Kong Aircraft Maintenance Organisation and those of ISO 9002. In 1997, the Engineering Section accomplished 285 scheduled inspections for the GFS aircraft. The diverse role undertaken by the GFS and the variety of backup engineering service involved demand a versatile, well-qualified and professional engineering section.


Information and illustrations in this course material has been mainly obtained from the GFS home page at