Sqn Ldr Alex “ Frenchie” Duncan DFC AFC

As the Squadron Qualified Helicopter Instructor, Frenchie was one of the more experienced pilots when he deployed numerous times to Afghanistan. He has accumulated just shy of 3000hrs on the Chinook, more than a 1000 of which were in Combat Missions in Afghanistan. He has lead multi aircraft, multi national missions into the heart of Afghanistan's Helmand Province, carrying out helicopter air assaults and rescues in the face of the enemy. Each mission helped him build up his experience of leadership which culminated in the 2 Operational Honours, recognising his stoicism and courage against a tenacious enemy and treacherous Afghan weather conditions.


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Frenchie grew up in France, born to a French mother and a British father. After completing a Scientific Baccalaureate in France and a stint as an aircraft mechanic for a Romanian airline, he enrolled in Manchester University to read Aerospace Engineering. He was sponsored by British Airways Engineering which led him enjoying a very memorable time working on the Concorde for 2 years.

He joined the RAF in 2000 as a trainee pilot and was commissioned in 2001. After Elementary Flying Training, he completed Rotary Wing Training in 2003 where he was awarded his RAF pilot wings and posted to the Chinook Force where he became Combat Ready and Day/Night Formation leader in 2005. He became a Qualified Helicopter Instructor on the Chinook in 2008.

He has deployed on exercise in Europe, USA and Middle East, operating from land bases and aircraft carriers. He has completed operational missions and tours in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Between 2006 and 2012, he deployed 7 times to Afghanistan completing more than 1000Hrs on combat operations. During those he lead aircraft formations on air assaults directly to the enemy's door step, supporting both conventional forces and Special Forces.

During one of those missions in May 2008, Frenchie was captain of a Chinook that was attacked and hit by an RPG and machine gun fire. This was a deliberate attempt by the Taliban to assassinate the Governor of Helmand Province, who was being transported in the helicopter.  Frenchie's aircraft was badly damaged during the attack but due to his exemplary flying and professional determination he was able to fly the aircraft out of hostile territory and save the 16 civilian passengers on board. Despite this being the only time a Chinook has survived an attack by an RPG, Frenchie was undeterred and 6 days later he lead a second wave of Chinook helicopters delivering paratroopers against a tenacious enemy, this action tilting the balance in favour of the coalition forces during this battle. His leadership during those 2 actions saw him being awarded the Distinguish Flying Cross by Her Majesty the Queen.

Throughout his tours, Frenchie was also an Immediate Reaction Team aircraft Captain, assisting in rescuing more than a hundred British Soldiers, Afghan civilians and children. He was awarded the Air Force Cross in Sep 2011, after carrying out 2 separate rescues in a moonless night, with only 200 m visibility in a dust storm on the 10th Dec 2010.

Frenchie has published a critically acclaimed book on Chinook Operations in Afghanistan titled Sweating the Metal.

After a promotional staff tour between 2012 and 2014 working closely with Boeing Helicopters, Frenchie is now training to become a Qualified Flying Instructor to take over the Oxford University Air Squadron on completion.

Frenchie, now one of the most decorated serving RAF pilots, has an almost limitless number of examples where his leadership and nerves have been tested to the limits. Being a very approachable individual, using a lot of humour, he is a fascinating speaker for any audience on topics such as teamwork, leadership and tactical Vs strategic thinking. He will impart his knowledge on decision making under pressure and the ability to make people follow their leader in the most dire of situations, sometimes more than once. An ability that most businesses regard as an exceptional quality.

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