RAF Pilot Training in WW2

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Glider, Sep 21, 2010.

  1. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    #1 Glider, Sep 21, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2010
    All
    I said that I would look into this and let you know what I found. It’s been interesting and some ways informative as some assumptions that I had proved to be incorrect.

    Basically RAF training was covered in three main sections which will be dealt with individually. These are:-
    a) Training in the United Kingdom
    b) The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
    c) Training in the USA
    It should be noted that as far as this posting goes training starts with the first flight training and doesn’t cover anything that happened before. For each section I attach links to the main sources of information that I used. There were others but they were to support the main sources and as such have not referenced them unless it added significantly to the piece.

    I will be covering this in reverse order starting with Training in the USA. The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan should be ready in a couple of days but the UK section will have to wait until I can check some details at the National Archives.

    Training in the USA

    When researching this section it became apparent that RAF trainees who went to the USA were taught under two different schemes:-
    1. The Arnold Scheme
    2. RAF Training
    The Arnold scheme was simple, RAF trainees joined USAAF trainees and were trained at USAAF bases with the same standards curriculum and examinations. This gave an unexpected opportunity to compare RAF training as undertaken in the other training schemes with USAAF training.
    The RAF training in the USA was also unexpected, as I wasn’t aware that the RAF had set up independent training schools in the USA. These RAF schools were not part of the British Commonwealth Training scheme and had their own unique curriculum.

    The Arnold Scheme
    As mentioned earlier RAF trainees taught under the Arnold Scheme were taught alongside USAAF trainees, so this section explains the flight training undertaken by USAAF.
    USAAF training had four phases:-
    • Primary Flying School
    • Basic Flying School
    • Advanced Flying School
    • Transition Training

    Primary Flying School
    The Primary Flying schools were civilian operated under contract for the USAAF. These civilian schools used Stearman, Ryan and Fairchild trainers owned by the USAAF, but their flight instructors were civilian employees. Each cadet received 60 hours of flight training in nine weeks.
    RAF trainees had one minor difference to the USAAF, before they were sent from the UK they were given 4 hours on Tiger Moths to weed out those who may not be suitable for reasons such as air sickness, people who may be unusually susceptible to negative G, or simply discover they hate flying.

    Basic Flying School
    Here the aircraft were changed to BT-9 or Bt-13. Cadets were learned how to fly at night, by instruments, information and cross-country from one point to another. Also, for the first time, he operated a plane equipped with a two-way radio and a two-pitch propeller. This training took 9 weeks and involved about 70 hours in the air. It should be noted that the schools were now under USAAF control and apart from the additional complexity of the training and machinery, there was also the cultural shock as discipline was more rigorous.

    Advanced Flying School
    Again we have a change in aircraft to the AT-6 for future fighter pilots. The time in training was nine weeks and took about 70 hours flying time. The emphasis was on learning aerial gunnery as well as combat manoeuvres and increasing their skills in navigation, formation and instrument flying.

    Transition Training
    This is where the cadet was introduced to the aircraft to be used in combat. For a fighter pilot this took two months and about 50 hours, but was more for multi engine pilots.
    RAF graduates were sent home at the end of the Advanced Flying School as the aircraft that they were to use were different. RAF graduates would be sent on an acclimatisation course of 2 weeks to get them used to flying in Britain with the weather and crowded skies before being sent to an RAF O.T.U. course. The length of this varied depending on the type of aircraft they were to fly and the time period they arrived in the UK as it constantly changed. For details of this see Training in the United Kingdom.

    Other Items
    I left the Transition Training in as it was of interest. Personally I was surprised by the lack of time allocated by the USAAF to this vital period. I think that the impact was reduced as most trainees were sent to units in the USA giving them a period of training and adjustment before being thrown into battle. If anyone has more information on this I would appreciate it.
    One other item of note was that each level of training Primary, Basic and Advanced was undertaken at different bases.

    There were some interesting factors that came to light. It should be remembered that USAAF Graduates were officers; as all pilots in the USAAF were commissioned. All the RAF Graduates were Sergeants, despite having to pass the same course. The better trainees were often offered a guaranteed commission if they stayed in the USA or Canada as Instructors, but the vast majority wanted to go back to the UK.

    Summary
    USAAF Flight Training covered 29 weeks with approximately 260 hours.
    Factsheets : AAF Training During WWII
     
  2. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    RAF Training in the USA.
    In May 1941 Presidential permission was given for the RAF to set up and train RAF pilots on American Soil. Six British Flight Training Schools (BFTS) were set up and between June and August 1941 they started training their first students.
    The staff were nearly all American Civilians with a very small number of RAF staff for weapons, radio and some specialist training and the Aircraft were American. Around 20% of the students were USAAF and the rest RAF.

    Compared to the training in USAAF schools, one difference was that each level of training Primary, Basic and Advanced was undertaken at the same base. This saved a considerable amount of time as the students didn’t have to be transferred and allowed an extra week of training making 28 weeks instead of 27.
    Initially the aircraft and syllabus was exactly the same as the USAAF schools, but the RAF decided to follow RAF practice and delete the Basic flying training scheme.
    Instead the Primary training was extended from 9 to 12 weeks and the curriculum extended to cover night flying. The Advanced training scheme was extended from 9 weeks to 16 equalling the original 28 week timescale.

    One advantage of this was that the students only had to learn how to fly two types of aircraft bypassing the BT-9 and BT-13. As it took a week to train the students to fly each type of aircraft this time was spent on extending the skills of the students, not learning the taps and systems of a new aircraft type.

    After graduation the students were sent to the UK for O.T.U. training as were those students trained under the Arnold Scheme.

    The USAAF started to requisition the flying schools from May 1943 the last one closing down in November 1944.

    A total of 18,000 RAF Trainees were training in the USA under both the Arnold Scheme and BFTS and 1,000 USAAF cadets also passed through the BFTS scheme.

    Summary
    Clearly the training received by RAF students in the USA was at least as good as the USAAF students. The main reference used is BBC - WW2 People's War - The British Flying Training Schools in the U.S.A. 1941-1944
     
  3. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    excellent stuff thanks for the effort , particularly since this is the 70th anniversiary of the BCATP
     
  4. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    #4 Glider, Sep 22, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2010
    The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP)

    This was a well known training scheme which produced approx 130,000 aircrew during WW2. These numbers and the following detail are from Canada the main training site outside the UK.

    There were a number of changes as the war progresses from a pre war schedule to the main one initiated in August 1940 which concentrated on numbers and additional quality took second place. All parties knew this wasn't the ideal solution, but the UK was alone in the war and pilots were needed urgently. More sophisticated training schemes developed later in the war.

    Whilst no one pretended that the training was perfect and the trainees had a lot to learn in a short timescale, it’s worth noting that training casualties were low. Training Casualties during 1940-41 were one per 11, 156 hours and by the end of the Second World War this had improved to 22,388 hours. These are more than acceptable and as good as any other airforce.

    Instead of trying to track every change the following are three snapshots.

    December 1940
    Elementary Training 7 weeks
    Service Training 10 weeks
    Overseas for O.T.U

    The point to note is that no gunnery training was undertaken during Service Training, some camera gun work but no firing. Before August 1940 25 hours had been spent on gunnery training during Service Training. After this the decision was taken that this should be left to the O.T.U.

    September 1942
    Elementary Training 8 weeks
    Service Training 12 weeks
    O.T.U 8 - 14 weeks depending on the role

    The pressure for numbers over quality had changed by this time. Service training had increased by 2 weeks but the additional time was spent on Instrument and Night Flying with an additional emphasis on aircraft recognition. Gunnery training was left to the OTU but now there was an OTU in Canada which was normally equipped with Hurricanes for the fighter stream and Hudson’s for bomber crews. Assuming they follow the practice in the UK 8 weeks will be for the Fighter OTU and 14 for Bomber and Coastal Command. There was a heavy emphasis on gunnery in the OTU. They would start with 25 hours training on ground and towed targets, which had originally been in the Service Training. Combat manoeuvres were then practised building up to dog fights with camera guns in dispersed with more gunnery practice using tactical approach and avoidance techniques.

    February 1944
    Elementary Training 10 weeks
    Service Training 20 weeks
    Aircrew Graduate School 4 weeks
    O.T.U 8 - 14 weeks depending on the role

    At this point in the war the RAF had a surplus of aircrew as casualties were less than expected. This allowed the training to be extended and fully integrate all the lessons of actual combat.
    Service Training was significantly extended and covered items such as night flying at low altitude and more camera gun work, getting the students used to 'attacking' ground targets by day.
    Pilots were given more freedom in practicing what they had been taught and were encouraged to get the maximum performance out of their machines or in Morgan’s words “wring the ships out” until they felt “at home in any aerial situation.” Although they were under strict orders as to what they could or could not do, and subject to discipline and perhaps dismissal for disregarding instructions, this did not always prevent heady teenagers from exceeding the bounds of their freedom. Aerial dog fighting, for instance, was forbidden but was very common. Students were encouraged to find their own way of doing things and this reflected combat experience where to be unpredictable was an advantage. An example of this was reacting to an unexpected attack. Each student was told to think about how they reacted in an emergency and how they would like to act when 'bounced'. Individaully they considered a response and the instructors would help them refine it so it became instinctive. The idea was that doing anything is better than nothing as the first shots are often the most accurate. If each pilot had their own response then the enemy wouldn't know what was going to happen next, and no one would be a sitting duck making up their mind as to what to do next.

    Aircrew Graduate Training was a new item and there is very little to be found on this but my understanding was that it was to do with co operation in the air, how to cover for one another going beyond formation flying. If anyone can add to this I would appreciate it.

    Compared to USAAF Training
    There can be no doubt that the initial post August 1940 was considerably less than the training received in the USAAF. This developed until from September 1942 the training is very similar to the USAAF. Service training is less and doesn't include any live firing, but the OTU period is much longer and covers the live firing element.

    From February 1944 the training received by the cadet pilots was extensive and arguably the most rigorous training anywhere.

    It should be noted that all graduates from Canadian flying schools would have received more training over and above that described here, before being posted to a front line squadron. There were acclimatisation units normally two weeks long and then conversion to the aircraft they would fly in combat.

    Main reference http://www.airmuseum.ca/refs/aerodrome_of_democracy.pdf
     
  5. Nikademus

    Nikademus Member

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    #5 Nikademus, Sep 22, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2010
    Interesting stuff. Makes sense that once the intial emergency/hard times of the early war years passed that there would be a steady metholodical improvement in the training program(s). Superior resources facilitates superior organziational methods over time.

    Thx for taking the time to post all this.
     
  6. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Glider - you isolated the difference between a pilot emerging from advanced and being posted to a US based Group in training for deployment versus Transition Training which was designed for the replacement pilot. Interestingly my father went through both.

    When he escaped from the command of the RAF Training operation at Miami, OK he went to a B-26 Marauder 336BG - then escaped again to Fighter Transitional Training at 337FG in Sarasota to fly P-40s. For him one of the best aspects of transition training is that for the period August 43 through March 44 he gained more practical instrument flying experience to compliment his ATC experience - thus far better prepared for ETO than average US based pilots.
     
  7. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for this any additional info always welcome. The switch from the USA to the UK with its changable weather, crowded skies and war environment was always a difficlt switch. I mentioned that Canadian OTU uits used Hurricanes and Hudsons. When they were sent home to the UK RAF pilots spent 2 weeks acclimatisation training in the UK on Hudsons and Hurricanes. This was they only had to concentrate on the environment as the aircraft were familiar to them. Then they were moved to 'proper' OTU units for transition to the aircraft they would fly in combat whatever it may be.
     
  8. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Good stuff Glider, thanks for taking the time to research and post all this.
    The transition from the US climate to the UK is interesting, and still relevant today. back in the late 1980s, there were a couple of people at my local Aero Club who organised condensed, intensive flying courses, for UK students, in the 'States - those 'Guaranteed to get your PPL in four weeks' things. Every person I knew who took advantage of these relatively inexpensive (compared to the then UK cost, prolonged due to our climate) courses, had to spend quite some time, on return to the UK, on 'Nav and Met', and instrument flying, to get even partly accustomed to the UK weather systems which, as I'm sure you are aware, when flying can vary considerably in the space of a few miles, and change in minutes.
     
  9. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the comments.
    A small story I recently read about the RAF Trainees who wanted to go back to the UK as Sergeants rather than stay as commissioned instructors in the USA. There was one trainee, top of his class by some margin who refused to stay in the US. The CO wasn't above a bit of blackmail and promised that if he didn't stay as an instructor, he would ensure that he would be posted as a Sergeant to the US, in the training school, to fly the target tug. Almost certainly this was a threat he couldn't have carried but the guy didn't take a chance and stayed
     
  10. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    Great posts, thanks.

    Small point, I was convinced the USAAF had Sergeant pilots, including Chuck Yeager.
     
  11. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    Chuck Yeager was a Flight Officer ( Warrant Officer) on graduation from flight school. Was promoted to 2nd Lt. after reaching England.

    He joined the USAAC in Sept 41, becoming a aircraft mechanic, and wasn't eligible for flight training with only high school, but those standards were relaxed when the war first started. He would have been a sergeant pilot in training but was promoted to warrant officer on graduation.

    There were enlisted pilots in the US services, left over from the 30's.
     
  12. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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  13. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Great Stuff again I live and learn.
     
  14. crackle

    crackle New Member

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    I'm hoping to find pdf's of the AP1732a and b the RAF used for training. Does anyone know where they are available?
    Thanks
     
  15. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    At a guess try Hendon
     
  16. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    #16 VBF-13, Nov 29, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2012
    If they were anything like the US Naval aviation cadets, what happened before that was half the program. It took 18 months for a US Naval aviator to get his wings. The first 9 months of that were spent in pre-flight school (6 months in the classroom, then 3 months physical training), all having taken place at various college campuses.

    Your source for that, by the way, would be the training jackets of the pilots. I don't know what research skills you bring to bear, but if its just the Internet, you may not find it. Get hold of a training jacket, and you should see it.
     
  17. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    #17 VBF-13, Nov 29, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2012
    This was also encouraged of the Naval aviators, and it did result in a certain cockiness, at times. Officially, the Navy didn’t tolerate it, but unofficially, it kind of did. If you were caught at the prank, that was the worst. When you just buzzed the Hawaiian sailboat and tipped it over with your prop-wash, and they couldn’t identify you, that was much better. True story. There was an F4U from another NAS that came into my Dad’s NAS for an emergency landing one afternoon with a telephone line wrapped around a wing and the Hawaiian police hot on its tail. Evidently the pilot was buzzing the traffic, as well. I don’t know about his fate, but I imagine he at least got a good balling out.
     
  18. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    All forces had a period of square bashing, PE, tests for suitability etc but I wanted to concentrate on the flying training.

    The research is a combination of Internet, the National Archives and published histories. I certainly don't claim to be perfect and am always open to additions. The problem with an individualy record is that its a snapshot of one persons training. Always to be taken into consideration but for the bigger picture the official archives are normally the best.
     
  19. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    #19 VBF-13, Nov 30, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2012
    I understand what you're focusing on but I thought, without the pre-flight aspect, which, again, comprised half their training, one might get the wrong idea. That's why I thought I'd at least mention it, and what it conceivably involved, should the programs have been similar.

    On that jacket, Glider, that'll at least give you a glimpse into the program, as well as good leads on further research, should more comprehensive sources be lacking. That's the idea, there, anyway. Good work, by the way.
     
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