RAF Pilot Training Hours 1940

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Glider, Aug 12, 2010.

  1. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    All
    There has been some debate about the actual training that RAF pilots received during the critical period leading up to and including the BOB.

    I was able to go to the National Archives at Kew and found the file covering this topic. It was a substantial file and the attached is a summary which covers it nicely. I think its worth covering some of the key aspects in some detail and the chokepoints.

    Its worth starting out with some numbers that show how difficult it was to deliver the training that was needed. In 1935 the RAF trained about 300 pilots a year, by the second revise in August 1940 this had increased to 7,000 pilots a year once the second revise was in place. With this kind of expansion you were going to have some problems along the way.

    There were three types of training:-

    EFTS - this was elementary training using aircraft such as the Tiger Moth
    SFTS - Called Service Flight Training and this had two aspects ITS Initial Training and ATS Advanced Training. This used advanced trainers such as the Master
    OTU - These introduced the trainee to front line aircraft and taught them how to fly and fight.

    EFTS were often pre war flying schools that had been paid by the RAF to train pilots to a standard level. When war broke out they were incorporated into the RAF and expanded. However the transition was fairly simple, the core instrutors often had years of experience, new instructors were easily trained and everyone was familiar with the planes both pilots and engineers.

    SFTS These schools were the choke points in the training process. The advanced trainers were few in number and couldn't be delivered quickly as the front line had the top priority for production capacity. The Instructors needed detailed schooling and were understandably in demand for the front line. The accident rate was heavy which is understandable if you have a shortage of aircraft being worked into the ground, ground crew often being asked to do other roles (such as guard duty) and trainees who by their nature are going to have more heavy landings etc, and increase the wear and tear on the aircraft.
    Its worth noting that camera guns were used in the training at SFTS but no live firing. Comments have also been reported about training schools not working at maximum capacity during the BOB period. These were almost always made about the SFTS schools and the problem was you will have guessed, a lack of aircraft.

    OTU - Initially these also had difficulties with aircraft. In the first few months of 1940 there were few Hurricanes to spare and almost no Spitfires for OTU. As a result fighter pilots often had to spend some of this time flying biplanes and bomber trainees Battles. Around May 1940 this had eased and Hurricanes were more common in the OTU.
    This lack of modern fighters in the first few months probably explians why some pilots went to squadrons with a limited number of hours on Spitfores and Hurricanes

    As you can see the problem was in the SFTS and mainly it was a lack of aircraft. A number of things were tried and in the second quarter a couple of the SFTS schools trialed the introduction of their trainees to Hurricanes before sending them to the OTU. The OTU were delighted as they didn't have to train the pilots how to fly the Hurricane, the pupils had confidence and they were able to concentrate on the business of teaching them the more advanced aspects of training.
    The down side was a further increase in the accident rate at SFTS. As you can imagine these Hurricanes were older versions which had seen hard service, The already hard pressed ground crews at SFTS now had another type of aircraft to maintain which brought its own complications, plus these aircraft were worn out and needed more maintanence than average, throw in the fact the pilots were trainees and the problem is clear. The Hurricane took the rough handling quite well but there were a number of engine failures and the experiment was curtailed.

    The attachments show the training at the start of 1940 and the amended schemes introduced during the year.

    Most of it is pretty clear but there are a couple of things I should mention
    a) You will see Group 1 and Group 2 mentioned Group 1 are Fighter trainees, Group 2 Bomber and Coastal Command trainees.
    b) Fleet Air Arm are not covered. They had two schools of their own and had different periods in each of the schools.
    c) Third Revise. This should be ignored iro the BOB as it was introduced at the end of November and needed significant changes right from the start.

    A summary is as follows Note the number of hours stayed the same

    EFTS 50 hours
    SFTS 100 hours
    OTU 40 hours (fighters)

    Period
    Start of 1940 - 28 weeks
    June 1940 - 23 weeks
    August 1940 - 22 weeks

    One of the main problems with reducing the period of the course is that you are more dependent on the weather, you often cannot put off things until tomorrow. As the course was determined by the Period the course finished when the number of weeks was up. As a result the hours should probably be considered as planned hours. I think this might explain the very small number of hours that are sometimes reported.

    I hope this is of interest.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    Nice info Glider thanks for your work on that.
     
  3. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Hello Glider
    Thanks a lot. Very interesting. Is it possible to get the following extra info?
    The file reference, like AIR 2/1234, I’m assuming that the info is from The NA
    The full title of the document
    Estab. of instrs and Hours per Instructor per month for columns 1 and 2

    TIA
    Juha
     
  4. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    #4 Glider, Aug 12, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2010
    To my shame I forgot to write down the file number. Give me time and I will track it down

    I think this is it

    AIR 10/2316 Standard War Syllabus of Pilot Training in the Royal Air Force
     
  5. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Thanks a lot, Glider!
    Very much appreciated!

    Juha
     
  6. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    so much for the claim that pilots were taking to the air with less than 20 hours experience......perhaps this was a field expedient occurring only in the darkest days of the battle, and then only occasionally, if at all
     
  7. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Hello Parsifal
    from 8 Sept onwards "C" Class sqn scheme also helped, those few cases I know got fairly intensive training at those, were they from OTU with 15-23 hours in Spits when arrived to a C-Class sqn or ex Fairey Battle pilots, who flew Spits first time at "C"-Class sqn. Instructing pilots had fresh combat experience and all cases I know were happy with their experience but I would be surprised if all those pilots just out of bloody combat were excellent instructors.

    Juha
     
  8. Nikademus

    Nikademus Member

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    This assumes that such documents are not available to the professional authors publishing their books on the Battle.
     
  9. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Great info, thanks Glider.
     
  10. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    As I mentioned it was quite probable in the early days for a pilot to have approx 10 hours on Spitfires or Hurricanes as they didn't have these aircraft in the OTU, but it was soon resolved. My guess is that this fact grew into 10 hours in OTU as the story was retold.
     
  11. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    Well Done Glider!

    You tell it.

    Put some of those silly stories to bed.

    I knew that some pilots had very little time on a Spit or Hurri but they would have had a base of experience on trainers...
     
  12. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The debate that led to this was a claim in another thread that wartime training was reduced to less than twenty hours. Not just training on the main operational types....training in total. You know the discussion I am referring to/ Either these documents are wrong, or that claim is spurious.
     
  13. timmo

    timmo Member

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    Ridiculous claim. It's just possible that some pilot might take 20 hours to solo!!

    But hours per se meant little. I had 70 on Tiger Moths 70 on Harts Hinds.

    One trip in a Master on joining the Squadron.

    Fat lot of good that did!!

    = Tim
     
  14. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    My money is on the papers being correct.
     
  15. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    Great post GLider, but the fact remained that many Hurri and Spit pilots went up against the hordes of 109's completely and utterly unprepared for combat against seasoned veterans...

    There are MANY accounts of Spitfire pilots who had never fired their guns while airborne, and yet they went up against the Luftwaffe boys regardless...
     
  16. Kurfürst

    Kurfürst Banned

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    Curious, because I can't recall that part of the discussion, or anyone making that claim.. IIRC the training time was reduced to less than 20 hours on the operational types (read: the pilot had that much flying on a Spit, Hurri etc.). Perhaps thats the part where your memory cheats on you.
     
  17. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    #17 parsifal, Aug 14, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2010
    just so we are clear, what in your opinion was the regulation Training hours for RAF fighter Pilots in the latter half of 1940, and what would be the average or regulation times training time for graduate luftwaffe fighter pilots in that same time frame?

    To help refresh your memory, here is but one of many quotes that could be used to demonstrate your previous position:

    Alll RAF fighter pilots arriving with a mere 6 weeks of training (instead of the orginal, iirc 3 months..), very little flight experience with either general flying or on their operational type to their operational units. How can you fly the Spitfire if you haven't even mastered the Tiger Moth yet..?

    For the record, US pilots in 1943 were graduating after having clocked up about 350 hours of flying time. Their training course lasted about 48 weeks, IIRC. If there is any equivalency in the average flying time per day, your reference to 6 weeks equates to about 35 hours, guesstimating sn sllowsnce for lost time due to poor weather in England
     
  18. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    How many is many?

    The Germans had similar problems.

    Steinhilper wrote about one of his replacement pilots:

    High also on the list of losses as the battle wore on were the replacement pilots. They simply didn't have the experience that we pre-war regulars had acquired. In our Gruppe at the beginning of the French Campaign we had thirty-six experienced pilots, none of whom had less than three years flying experience. Now we were getting replacements for the experienced pilots we had lost straight from Jagdfliegerschule (fighter school]. At that time we still tried our best to take care of these fledglings until they could accrue some experience.

    Typical of these youngsters was a young Gefreiter who arrived in late September. His flying time was minimal - he had only fired a few shots at a ground target, had never flown on oxygen and still had no idea how to use his radio. We tried to increase their experience before they actually came along on combat missions by taking them up on patrols between missions. Then we would talk on the radio, climb to altitudes in excess of 8,000 metres (25,000 ft) and make them use oxygen. Of special importance was teaching them how to change the pitch of their propeller to get maxmum pull from the engine at high altitude. A flat pitch would allow the engine to rev up to its maximum so that the super-charger would deliver the maximum volume of air to the cylinders and produce optimum power; changing to a coarser pitch would have that engine power converted into more pull and consequently speed our rate of climb. It was vital they mastered this technique if they were to keep up in a battle-climb or at high altitude.5

    After about ten hours of 'tuition' we would take them out over the Channel to shoot at shadows on the water or cross to Dungeness and shoot at a black medieval tower which stood there (the old Dungeness Lighthouse). Finally when we could not excuse them combat duty any more we would have to take them along with us. This became the case with the Gefreiter and so I took him as my Rottenhund Iwingman]. We began our climb almost immediately after take-off and he was constantly using the radio to ask us to slow down so that he could keep up. It was obvious that he wasn't manipulating the pitch control with the skill of the more seasoned pilots to produce the same power as our machines. We tried to tell him what to do on the radio but to no avail. Eventually, about half-way across the Channel and at 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) Kiihle told him to leave the formation and return to base. He broke away but in his confusion he turned not for home but towards Dover. Kiihle realised what was happening and ordered me to give chase and take him home. I rolled out and soon overhauled him, just before we reached the balloon barrage at Dover. I had tried to raise him on the radio but he was in such a state of anxiety that he wouldn't or couldn't respond. Positioning myself in front of him I rocked my wings, using the signal for him to follow me. He dutifully hung onto my tail and we were soon back at Coquelles. This was one of only two missions I missed during the whole of our time in the Battle of Britain.

    As a result we decided that we would not take any more replacements on high altitude missions until we could give them more, much more, training. They were supposed to be replacements but in the event they were more of a problem for us than reinforcement for the squadron.
     
  19. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    Great quote Milosh...

    In the one book Im reading right now about the BoB, there were atleast 6 different accounts concerning the lack of flight time in type before actual combat ops...

    The Brits however had a much larger issue concerning replacement jocks than the Germans did... Still wonder "what if" Hitler had not changed over to the bombing of London... Dowding made several statements concerning this being the RAF's closest "scare"...
     
  20. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    I do agree Dan that the RAF was suffering from a shortage of Pilots and that their problem was greater than the Germans in the time period we are talking about.

    In my opinion, the majority of the killing in the air is done by a relatively small group of those flying. The rest are up there esentially as targets.....fill, to reduce the risk to the real killers that are up there. The problem was that the Germans had a large number of "Killer" pilots, the RAF had relatively fewer, and those that were about, were not as good at killing as their German counterparts. Conversely, eveery Luftwaffe fighter shot down at that time had a greater chance that the plane contained one of those virtually irreplaceable killer pilots. The new pilots entering the Luftwaffe were little better than those novices entering the RAF, and because the LW were losing, as a percentage of the total, a greater number of experten than the RAF (made worse by the fact that nearly every shoot down for the Luftwaffe was a lost pilot, whereas for the RAF only about 30-50% were being lost permanently, one can begin to appreciate that the Luftwaffes experience advantage was a wasting asset
     
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