When Chris Hearn joined the Army in 1979 they said he was ‘too stupid’ to be a pilot but he has just completed 7,000 hours in the air.
Now Major Hearn, MBE, he not only learned to fly helicopters but qualified as a helicopter trainer in 1990 and did his 7,000th hour – the equivalent of flying 24 hours a day for 291 days –in the Army’s sophisticated Apache attack helicopter at Wattisham Air Station last Wednesday.
Maj Hearn, 54, is the Attack Helicopter Force’s senior flying instructor, responsible for maintaining the flying standards for operational Apache crews.
He said: “I was out for a refresher flight with another pilot and I was concentrating on my flying when he suddenly said ‘congratulations on your 7,000 hours’. I’ve enjoyed every minute of my flying career and it was great to have so many colleagues turn out to mark the occasion.”
Maj Hearn grew up in Exeter and left school with few qualifications. He initially served as a gunner in the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment before applying for pilot training in 1987 as a lance corporal.
He said: “I’d always had a hankering for flying and I thought I’d give it a go. Back in the recruiting office I’d been told I was too stupid to be a pilot, but I passed the selection and training and here I am now.”
Maj Hearn is now one of only two pilots to hold the A1 category, the highest instructional qualification in the Army. He was awarded an MBE in the 2015 Queens Birthday Honours for services to Army aviation.
He has flown 2,500 hours in Gazelle, 1,000 in Lynx, 1,000 in Squirrel and 2,500 hours in Apache and served on operations in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Libya.