British Flying Training Schools ~ USA
It is not widely known that, from early in War, well before the entry of the United States in December 1941, Air Force Officers in both countries had discussed the Training of RAF Pilots in the open and friendly skies of the USA, in parallel with similar arrangements for the Empire Air Training Scheme in Canada, Rhodesia and South Africa. Interestingly, similar arrangements had led to the Training of RAF pilots in the USA during WWI. In 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made an urgent appeal to the United States to provide War Materials and Pilot Training for Defence against a superior German Air Power which bombarded England during the Battle of Britain. President Franklin Roosevelt responded by implementing the Lend-Lease Act, in May 1941 which called for the Construction of British Flying Training Schools in short order in California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas. Other Training would take place with the USAAC in their own Schools, under the Arnold Scheme, named after General ‘Hap’ Arnold. When Pearl Harbour was bombed by the Japanese, America declared War on Germany and Japan and the BFTS’s where formed.
These were similar to the General Hap Arnold Scheme of funding, the future Civilian Pilot Training Program. (CPTP or CPT). The next year Robert H Hinckley, head of the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA), took the controls of the experimental program. Hinckley, “single-handedly designed a program he had dreamed of for many years.” Hinckley’s objectives included improving Civil Aviation by providing affordable Flight Instruction and having Government subsidise the high cost of Airplane Rental & Flight Instruction. Standardization of Training Techniques was yet another goal, as was utilising existing facilities at Colleges. In 1939 CPT took wing. Eventually, the Flight Instruction Initiative saw expansion through Contracts with Flight Schools around the Nation. “In 1939 USAAC had a total of only 4,502 Pilots, including 2,007 Active Duty Officers, 2,187 Reserve Officers and 308 National Guard Officers. The number of new Army-trained Pilots grew – from 982 in 1939 to about 8,000 in 1940, to more than 27,000 in 1941 – but much more was needed, and the Army itself could not Train the huge numbers of Cadets desperately required.” Trainees from the CPTP entered the Army Air Forces Enlisted Reserve. Many went to further Instruction & Commissioned Service as Combat Pilots. Others became service, liaison, ferry & glider Pilots, Instructors, or Commercial Pilots in the Air Transport Command. War Officially came to the United States on Sunday, 7th December 1941. On that fateful morning, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked American Military facilities in Hawaii. On 12th December 1941, President Roosevelt signed an Executive Order that put CPTP on a Wartime footing. To formalise the Military aspects of the CPTP in Wartime, the name of the Program was changed to War Training Service (WTS) exclusively devoted to the Procurement & Training of men for ultimate Service as Military Pilots, or for correlated non-Military activities. Aircraft were now procured & provided by the Government. The CPTP/WTS Graduates received Orders to Report for Army Air Corps Active Service. USAAC became the USAAF on 8th January 1943
In Jack Currie’s “Wings over Georgia“. He describes the 4-separate Lend-Lease Funded Training Programmes in the US.
1) The Arnold Scheme — In April 1941, Henry H ‘Hap’ Arnold flew to London and proposed to the Air Ministry the Training of 4,000 RAF Cadets in the US where new Schools would become available in June. This was accepted and the Personnel Pipeline & Administrative Machinery were established. Soon 6-Primary Flying Schools in the Sun Belt & the Pan American Airways Navigation School began to receive Cadets; 3-Levels of Training took place at different USAAC (later USAAF) Bases – see PAA Map above
2) The Towers Scheme – seems to have been for RAF Training for Coastal Command, and was Based in Pensacola, Florida. It was the result of an Offer by Rear Admiral John H Towers of the United States Navy to Train British Crews for the Fleet Air Arm. It included Observers, Wireless Operators, Air-gunners as well as Pilots“. Cadets at Pensacola were Trained to Fly Catalinas among other Aircraft.
3) The British Flying Training Schools Scheme — All Training all took place at each Base. The 6 BFTS’s were, with opening dates:-
BFTS Terrell, Texas 9th June 1941*
BFTS Lancaster, California 9th June 1941*
BFTS Miami. Oklahoma 16th June 1941*
BFTS Mesa, Arizona 16th June 1941*
BFTS Clewiston, Florida 17 July 1941
BFTS Ponca City, Oklahoma 23rd August 1941
BFTS Sweetwater, Texas May 1942 but closed August 1942
* All but Sweetwater, started their Training at other Bases until their Permanent Bases were opened in July/August 1941.
4) Pan-American Airways Observer School.
Opened to RAF Cadets in March 1941 and operated until October 1942. Initially based at Coral Gables, Florida, the Flying was carried out at Dinner Key, South of Miami. The Scheme produced approximately 1,300 Navigators. There are Photographs of the obsolete Flying Boats used in Florida for Training RAF Navigators. Also perhaps used in the Towers Scheme, possibly at Pensacola. The School started out as a Civil Contract with PAA placed by the British Government and, like the RAF Refresher Schools, rapidly drawn into Lend-Lease Account when that Funding became available the 1st 10-man Course eventually began on 22nd March 1941‘ (the US Army had announced the Contract with Pan American back on 10th August 1940). ‘The last British Course to use the facilities at Miami Graduated on 17th October 1942, by which time Pan American Airways had trained a Total of 1177 Observers for the RAF. These were not the only Observers to be contributed by the USA, however, as a further 538 had been Trained by the US Navy at Pensacola (Florida) under the Towers Scheme. The 1st 30-strong Course had commenced at the end of July 1941, the last one Graduating a year later.’
5) Trans World Airlines Aircrew Training Schools at Alberqueque & Kansas City. These seem to have been short-lived but the intention was to convert the 1st RAF Crews onto the Liberator & Fortress prior to Ferrying them across the Atlantic. c.March 1941.
General Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold, Chief of the US Army Air Corps, (Hap was short for “Happy,”) supported Britain and largely due to his efforts, Flying Training began in the USA in early 1941. What he did, enabled more than 11,000 Pilots to Graduate there – about 1 in 6 of RAF Pilots Trained over there during WW2. Through mutual cooperation between President Roosevelt & Squadron Leader Randolph Stuart Mills DFC, (inset) who went to the USA as Assistant Air Attache to Develop British Training Facilities. The RAF eventually had 7-Schools there. Mills personally briefed Roosevelt at the White House on European Operations & 2 Schemes were set up. The Arnold Scheme, Operational 1941-1943 & the BFTS’s, Operational 1941-1945. Each BFTS was built to a General Specification. Each Airfield itself was to be a Mile Square with 2 Runways and a Control Tower. Hangars & Maintenance Equipment was provided for the PT17A (Stearman) & the AT6A (Harvard), together with Emergency Facilities, Parachutes, & Accommodation for Ground Instruction, Administration, Dormitories, Dining Halls & Link Training. The Work had to be carried out by Contractors within 60-Days of signing the Contract!
Pilots Trained under the Arnold Scheme were Awarded both the American & RAF Wings. Presumably, because they Trained under the American System, as distinct from the RAF System. Also, there was some resistance to the ‘Fallout‘ with the Arnold Scheme, the early Classes were 45% “Washed-out”. The BFTS Schemes were run under more of an RAF Environment and unlike the Arnold Scheme, a Cadet stayed at the same Airfield to do his Primary, Basic & Advanced Training instead of every 10 or 12-weeks moving to another Airfield/Base.
On the 17th July 1941, Allan Gent arrived at Woodward Field, Camden, South Carolina, to attend the “Southern Aviation School” for Flight Training as part of the “Arnold Scheme“. He was a Cadet of Class 42B, the 2nd Class that attended the School. 42B meant that they should Graduate in February 1942 (a 6-month Course)” [WW2 Service Record of RAF Pilot Allan Gent (1079136)].
Training was similar in all BFTS’s and occupied 28-weeks. Originally, there were 3-Parts: Primary on Stearman PT17, Basic on Vultee BT13 & Advanced on North American AT6A. From Course No.9, Basic was deleted, Cadets going from 12-weeks Primary to 16-weeks Advanced. After the Initial Build-up, when the 1st Courses of 50 Cadets arrived in quicker succession, new Courses arrived at 7-week Intervals. From No.11, Courses comprised about 80 RAF & 20 USAAF Cadets and arrived at 9-week Intervals. The 1st Course ran from 26th August 1941 to 23rd January 1942. Because the USA did not enter the War until 7th December 1941, Cadets had to wear Civilian Clothes off Camp – Suits believed to have been provided from Burton’s – The 50/- Tailors. The School Closed in April 1944. In all, 17-Courses had attended; No.16 completed its Training there, but No.17 Course completed at the other BFTSs, which remained open until November 1944.
Flying Courses took place over 9 to 10-weeks (60 hours) at Civilian Contract Schools. The Schools, equipped with Stearman (Boeing) PT-17 Biplanes, were located at: Camden, South Carolina; Albany & Americus, Georgia; Arcadia & Lakeland, Florida; & Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Courses were run by experienced American Civilian Instructors.
Flying Training took place over a 9 to 10-week, 70-hr Course at either Cochran Field, Georgia or Gunter Field, Alabama. The Schools were equipped with Vultee BT-13 low-Wing Monoplanes. Courses were conducted by USAAC & RAF Flight Instructors.
Flying Training Schools conducted single-Engine or multi-Engine Courses. The single-Engine Courses took place in Alabama at Craig Field, near Selma or Napier Field near Dothan. Initially, multi-Engine Training took place on single-Engine North American AT-6 Aircraft (due to the shortage of twin-Engine Aircraft) at Maxwell & Napier Fields in Alabama and Turner Field in Georgia. However, in 1942 Maxwell became a Central Instructor’s School & Moody Field, Georgia took over multi-Engine Advanced Flying Training. At this point, Turner & Moody were then equipped with twin-Engine AT-7, AT-10 & AT-17 Trainers.
No.6 BFTS Ponca City, Oklahoma opened 23rd August 1941 was operated under Contract to the RAF by Harold S Darr, then President of Braniff Airlines, and was known as the Darr School. Except for a nucleus of RAF Staff, all the Instructors, Ground Staff & Supporting Staff were American Civilians. The Aircraft were provided by the USAAC, later the USAAF. The RAF Staff comprised the Commanding Officer, Administrative Officer and 3-4 other Officers & NCOs for Armaments, Signals & other Specialist Training, Discipline & Pay. At 6 BFTS, 1113 RAF Pilots& 125 USAAF Pilots are believed to have undergone Training in the 33 months of its existence. Records are incomplete, but the failure rate was about 30%.
7 RAF Cadets were Killed in Training and are buried at the IOOF Cemetery, Ponca City. This was the lowest accident rate of all BFTSs and perhaps of all Training in USA & Canada. The Graves are carefully maintained and a Ceremony is held each Memorial Day.
3-USAAF Aviation Cadets also were Killed, & 5 Civilian Instructors including Henry Jerger, the Chief Pilot, (the equivalent of an RAF Chief Flying Instructor). Very well respected, he was Killed when the Aircraft suffered a failure & his Passenger, a Mechanic, would not Bail-out. Mr Jerger was seen to try to get him out and finally jumped himself, but alas too late.
Tails Up! – The Magazine Published for No.6 BFTS Ponca City, Oklahoma
Altogether, some 18,000 RAF Cadets passed through the BFTS & Arnold Schemes. Another 1,000 USAAF Cadets were also Trained at the BFTS‘s.
A Scheme evolved, where RAF Personnel were allowed to enter the USA for Training providing they wore Civilian Clothes on entering the States, remaining in Civvies, and Training at American Airfields. Although the Americans were prevented from Exporting Aircraft to other Countries at War, before Pearl Harbour, they built an Airfield on the Canada/USA Border, Flew AT-6A Harvard’s there, took the Wings off, and Wheeled them across the Border. The Wings arrived later, and the Canadians bolted them back on ready to Train Cadets under the Empire Air Training Scheme.
Primary Flying Courses were run by experienced Civilian American Instructors and took place over 9 to 10-weeks at Civilian Contract Schools at Woodward Field in South Carolina, Albany & Americus in Georgia, Carlstrom Field, Arcadia & Lakeland in Florida, and Tuscaloosa in Alabama.
Basic Flying Training, under the Instruction of USAAC & Cochran Field at Macon, Georgia or Gunter Field, Montgomery, Alabama. Advanced Flying Training Schools conducted single-Engine Courses, held at Craig Field or Napier Field in Alabama, and multi-Engine courses, originally at Maxwell Field & Napier Field, Alabama and Turner Field, Georgia, but later at Turner Field & Moody Field, Georgia.
Between June 1941 & March 1943 a total of 7,885 RAF Personnel entered the Scheme. Of these, 3,392 were eliminated or ‘Washed-out’ and 81 were Killed in Training. Of the Cadets who successfully completed Training, 577 were retained for approximately 1-yr as Instructors, the remainder returning to the UK. Most successful Students became Sergeant Pilots, but 1,070 were Commissioned. Pilot Officer Cyril Joe Barton, a Graduate of the Scheme, was later awarded the Victoria Cross. Sir Michael Beetham, who also Trained under the Scheme, later became a Marshal of the RAF.
Near the South-western Shore of Lake Okeechobee, was Clewiston where Basic Training began with British Cadets receiving extensive Training in Formation Flying, Acrobatic Manoeuvres, Armaments & Instrument Navigation. The British Cadets were warmly received by the Locals and, as Flight Instructor Reed Clary recalls, “They were Royally treated and, to the Cadets, this was Heaven in itself.”
Between September 1941 & September 1945, 2,000 RAF and more than 100 American Cadets were Trained & Graduated as Pilots using PT-17s, BT-13s & AT-6s.
Lodwick Field, Lakeland, Florida
Operated in 1941 by: Lake Land School of Aeronautics later named Lodwick School of Aeronautics; Lodwick was the 60th Army Air Force Flying Training Detachment (AAFFTD). The location was 2-miles North of Lakeland, Florida. The School was a facility within the Army Air Forces Eastern Flying Training Command. Lodwick utilised the Lakeland Municipal Airport. Lodwick had 3 Paved 3,500ft Runways. There was also a Paved Aircraft Parking Area & Taxi Strips. The rest of the Field was Grass and were often used for Takeoffs & Landings. Two Hangars served for Flight Operations & both possessed Ready Rooms. The North Hangar housed a Parachute Airing Tower, a Parachute Packing Room & a US Weather Station. The Cadet Barracks, Classrooms, Drill Field & Mess Hall were between the Hangars & Lake Parker. Aircraft maintenance took place inside a 3rd Hangar. The Control Tower was North of the 2 East Hangars. It was approximately 60-ft in height and had a Glass-enclosed Room at the Top and a small Balcony one Level below. All the Mechanics held Certifications for Aircraft Engine & Airframe Maintenance. Al Lodwick became the Sole Owner in August 1941. It had 7-Auxiliary Airfields; Lodwick also Trained Foreign Students. The 1st Class of Cadets from England’s RAF arrived at Lodwick in 1941 and Graduated from the 10-week Training Course on 16th August of that year. At Lodwick, the Army provided the Cadets, Training Aircraft (PT-17s), Curricula for Cadets & Instructors, Officer Check Pilots, a Flight Surgeon and a small complement of Enlisted Personnel. The School provided Dormitories, a Mess Hall with Kitchen, an Academic Hall for Classes and a Recreation Hall that doubled as a Hospital. Lodwick “was the best US Army Civilian Contract School often visited by Personnel from other Schools to Observe our Activities with the Objective of improving their Operation.” A total of 8,825 Trainees entered Lodwick. At closing, 6,114 Cadets had Graduated. At its Peak of Operations, Lodwick employed 500 people. The above number of Students included 1,327 British Students. Prior to the United States’ Declaration of War on Germany & Japan, the Flyers from the UK ‘left’ the RAF. This enabled them legally to Train in the Neutral Country as ‘Civilians’. Upon Graduation, they returned to the United Kingdom & re-Enlisted. However, after America entered the War, the RAF sent their Pilot Candidates to American Schools with the Rank of “Aircraftsman.”
One of the Trainees. “A British Cadet was Lost on a Solo Flight from the 60th AAFFTD. Fog suddenly blanketed the area after the 1st-morning Flights departed in Stearmans. The poor Atmospheric conditions held long beyond the Fuel capacities of the Airborne Training Aircraft could Last. Emergency Landings accounted for all but one Plane, which was being flown by a British Student on a Solo Flight. Air Searches ensued to no avail. The Plane & Pilot were missing & presumed lost.” More than 4-yrs later, word reached Lodwick that an Aeroplane Wheel was found Floating in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. From the Serial No. & Maintenance Records, it was identified as being from the Missing Stearman. During the closing process in August 1945, a Military Transport Plane Landed at the Field. The Pilot was passing through our area and came to relay a Message to our Field. The Communication originated from a Liberated British PoW. The Transport Pilot told our Flight Director, ‘Doc’ Holman, that he had been Transporting freed Allied Prisoners from Germany to England. An Englishman told of his capture while undertaking Flying Training in Lakeland. The man explained to the American Pilot that Fog had blocked his Return to Base one morning and he became Lost. When the Fog cleared, the Student discovered that he was over Water. Soon thereafter the Trainee spotted a Submarine on the Surface. As the British Student Flew near the Sub’s Gunners shot down the unarmed Stearman!” (U-Boats undertook the last forays into the Gulf from May through December 1943: U-527, U-84, U-518 & U-193. Therefore, it would have been one of the aforementioned German Submarines that downed the Stearman.) The Kriegsmarine Crew rescued the hapless Student Pilot from the Sea, and he was Transported back to Germany & Imprisoned. During questioning the British Prisoner informed his Captors that he was in Training as an RAF Officer when Captured. The Germans placed him in an Officer’s Detention Prison. Many people still do not know that German U-Boats hunted Allied Shipping off the Florida Coasts. One U-Boat was sunk just North of Tampa Bay.
The last RAF Trainees left in October 1942 and were relocated to – Riddle Field, the British Flying Training School (BFTS) No.5 (Riddle McKay Aero College) near the Town of Clewiston, Florida, which Trained more than 1,700 Cadets in the Royal Air Force.
The RAF/Arnold Scheme‘s connection with Albany began in 1941 with Turner Field & Darr Aero Tech being selected as Flying Training Bases. Darr Aero Tech was designated a Primary Flying Training School & Turner Field an Advanced School, although between 24th January 1942 & 6th August 1942 it was also an Acclimatisation Centre for the Intakes of Classes 42H through 43B. It was here that the young RAF LAC got his Introduction to the “strange ways” of American Life, from its Food & Climate to its Customs.
The 7th of December 1941 was a Sunday. It was a bright & sunny morning in Albany, Georgia and normally we would be enjoying a “lie-in” and then a laze around but not this Sunday. It was rather special as we were joining Forces with our Classmates, the Americans, at the Local Football Stadium to give a demonstration of our respective Drills. The quick, crisp marching of the RAF contrasted strongly with the more Informal and, to us, Sloppier style of the Americans and we were warmly applauded by the Large Crowd gathered there. Drill finished we were standing at Attention side by side with the Americans & the Banners of each Nation were fluttering in the breeze when the PA System broke into life. A highly emotional Announcer gave us the News that the Japanese had Attacked Pearl Harbour and, consequently, we were all in the War together. It could not have been staged better if it was a Movie. The next few days were Chaotic. To us, War hardened Veterans, it bordered on Panic. We were all confined to the Camp itself and woe betide you if you forgot the Password which was issued Daily (by Tannoy at 7-am Believe it or not!). Sirens were always sounding at the oddest times and for no apparent reason. Gradually, however, things got back to normal, RAF Uniforms miraculously appeared and we got down to finishing our Training which had less than a Month to go. On the 3rd January 1942, we filed into the Camp Theatre to receive from the Major-General Commanding the Southeast Air Training Centre, General Walter R Weaver. The hard-earned Solid Silver Wings of the US Army Air Corps that we proudly wore on the right breast of our Tunics along with our RAF Wings which the US had thoughtfully pre-ordered, on the Left. Later, back in the UK, we were forbidden to wear the US Silver Wings, an Order which most of us ignored.
We celebrated our new Status of Fully Qualified Pilots with a gigantic Party in the Airfield Recreational Centre. “Dates” for the Ball in the Evening were presented with the traditional Sprays of Orchids & Gardenias in true Movie style and we Danced the Night away to a Terrific Band to the Tunes of “You are my Sunshine“, “Frenesi“, “The Hut Sut Song“, “Elmer’s Tune“, “Green Eyes“, & “Jealousy“. We finished, of course, with “Off We Go into the Wild Blue Yonder” but there were no Upperclass Men to retaliate. We were to meet up with some of them later when they were Based in the Cold Fens of East Anglia with the “Mighty 8th” of the newly named US Airforce, but they were very different people & so were we.
The Night before the Party we had celebrated with some drinks with our Instructors. When the Beer ran Low, my good & very kind Instructor, Lt. Millar, handed me the Keys to his Car and told me to go and get a few Cases. “But,” I said, “I can’t drive a Ccar”. He couldn’t believe it. I was 19-yrs-old, had 200-hrs Flying experience and, like most of us, had never driven a Car in my Life. Then it was a sad farewell to the rightly famed Southern Hospitality and back to face the harsh realities of Wartime Britain.
Most of the Survivors of our Courses all returned to England via Canada, New York & the “Queen Mary”. Some were delayed by Sickness in Canada and returned with a later Course on the French Built Ship SS Pasteur (29,253-Tons 1938) to Liverpool. After the fall of France, she was taken over by the British Government and placed under the Cunard White Star Management. She was used as a Troopship & Military Hospital Ship. From Liverpool, we went to Harrogate where our future prospects were disclosed to us and those who had been Commissioned were kitted out with our Gieves & Hawkes Tailored Uniforms. As we had all been Trained on single-Engined Aircraft, those who were not selected as Fighter Pilots proceeded to twin-Engine Training; the others continued Training for Combat on Singles, and so our RAF Flying Careers began.
Temporary No. 1 ‘Y’ Depot, Debert, Nova Scotia March – April 1941
No. 3 ‘Y’ Depot, Debert, Nova Scotia 1st September – March 1942
Temporary Embarcation Depot, Debert, Nova Scotia – February 1944
No. 1 ‘M’ Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia May – July 1941
No. 1 ‘Y’ Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia August 1941 – October 1942
No. 2 ‘Y’ Depot, Moncton, New Brunswick April – July 1942 – Formerly No.31 Personnel Despatch Centre.
The formation of No 1 ‘Y’ Depot of RCAF Moncton NB was effected today for disposition of RCAF Personnel for Posting Overseas & RAF Personnel for Repatriation and is located in Moncton in the Buildings formerly occupied by No 31 RAF Personnel Depot. G/C R J Dawes DFC took over as Commanding Officer from G/C Fernighough MC, Commanding Officer of No 31 RAF Depot. Many Officers, NCOs & Airmen on Staff Strength of No.31 PD were retained in their former positions under the new Name & Command.
Some British Trainees never returned to Europe to Fight the War: 23 Cadets were Killed in Crashes during Training lie in the British Plot in Arcadia‘s Oak Ridge Cemetery. They are remembered each year by the people of that City. After the War, present-day Airglades Airport was built over the Runways of Riddle Field. The Buildings of the Wartime Field have been replaced by modern Buildings, however, the Airfield is partially still in use. The No.5 BFTS Association of former Students continues their contact with the Clewiston Community through Periodic visits.
PT-17 Stearman Trainer
Carlstrom Field, Arcadia, Florida – The 53rd FTD exercised Air Corps oversight of Embry-Riddle. A new facility was built adjacent to the remains of WW1-era facilities & Riddle Contracted to Train RAF Aviators and Graduated the 1st Class in August 1941. Carlstrom Field had a very unusual Layout, with a compact Group of Buildings located inside a Circular road, with 5-Hangars located around the Southern Periphery of the Road. No Paved Runway was ever built with the Flying conducted from the 1-Square-mile (2.6 km2) Grass Field.
Souther Field, Americus, Georgia – Operated by: Graham Aviation Co; Former WW1 Airfield; Army Air Corps modified Graham’s Contract for the Training of RAF Cadets. The 1st Class of RAF Students arrived from Canada on a Train in early June 1941. Local Citizens warmly greeted the Brits as they were Bused through Americus to the School.
Woodward Field, Camden, South Carolina. Operated by: Southern Aviation School; also RAF Flying Training. Robert K Morgan, Pilot of the Memphis Belle B-17 Aircraft, had his Primary Training at Woodward Field. RAF Personnel were also Trained at Woodward. Two small Turf Airfields were also used by the Training School during the War.
Line Girls attended the Planes. These young women Taxied, Fueled, Parked, Propped & generally looked after the Airplanes.” The starting procedure at the beginning of Flights in the mornings & afternoons several Teams, each consisting of 3-Women, would start the Planes using a ‘slingshot’ made with 2 Bungee Cords and a Boot that fits over the Top of the Propeller Blade. The 1st Lady would Prime the Engine & place the Boot over the tip of the Prop and the others would place their Cords, one on each side of the Propeller, over the Crankshaft. The Cords were then stretched Taut to about 20 ft. ‘Clear’ & ‘Contact’ were duly Shouted and the Ignition switched to both Magnetos. The Propeller was then tipped past Dead Centre and the Engine would turn over several times. Starts were almost 100%. Each Slingshot Team would routinely start a row of 9-Stearmans very quickly.”
BFTS’s were RAF establishments in that the Commanding Officer, Adjutant, Chief Flying Instructors & Physical Training Instructors were all RAF Personnel. The Cadets were subject to RAF Law & British Flying Regulations were strictly adhered to around the Airfield, except on long Cross-country Flights when American Law had to be observed. These Schools were unique in WW2 by offering Ab Initio to Wings Training at the same Airfield. American Civilians became Instructors Trained to RAF Standards. Syllabuses for Flying Instruction greatly reflected the RAF’s needs as War progressed and included Night Flying, Instrument Flying, Long Distance Cross-country Flights & Formation Flying.
The Air Cadets Training lasted 27-weeks. PT17A’s (Boeing-Lloyd Stearman Bi-plane) 220-HP was the Primary Trainers with one Instructor & 4 Cadets assigned to each Aircraft.
An Iconic Film Image is a Stearman Cropduster chasing Cary Grant across a Field in North by Northwest (the Aeroplane that chased Grant was actually a Naval Aircraft Factory N3N Canary) the Plane that Hits the Truck was a Stearman
Early Courses until the end of 1942 had a Period on Vultee BT13A’s as a Basic Trainer. The Vultee BT-13 was Flown by most Trainee Pilots during WW2. It was the 2nd Phase of the 3-Phase Training Program for Pilots. After Primary Training in PT-13, PT-17, or PT-19 Trainers, the Student Pilot moved to the more complex Vultee for continued Flight Training. The BT-13 had a more powerful Engine and was faster & heavier than the Primary Trainer. It required the Student Pilot to use 2-way Radio Communications with the Ground and to operate Landing-flaps and a 2-position Hamilton Standard controllable-Pitch Propeller. It did not, however, have Retractable Landing Gear nor a Hydraulic System. The Flaps were operated by a crank-&-cable System. Its Pilots nicknamed it the “Vultee Vibrator.” However, from Course 10 onwards the Vultee was dropped. The Harvard AT6A‘s made up the Advanced Flight Line, having more power than the Primary Trainer and Panels suitable for Instrument & Night Flying.
The Aircraft quickly got its nickname of “Vibrator.” There are several explanations given for this Nickname.
1: Because it had a tendency to shake quite Violently as it approached its Stall Speed.
2. During more adventurous Manoeuvres the Canopy Vibrated.
3. On take-off, the Aircraft caused Windows on the Airfield to Vibrate.
4. The 2-position Propeller had an irritating Vibration in High Pitch.
The BT-13 served its intended purpose well. It and its successors were unforgiving Aircraft to Fly but were also extremely agile. Thus the BT-13 made a good Aircraft to help transition many 100’s of Pilots toward their Advanced Trainers & Fighters yet to be Mastered. The BT-13 was not without its faults. The Tail was held on with only 3-Bolts and after several in-Flight failures, the Navy restricted the Aircraft from Aerobatic & Violent Manoeuvres.