Sorting the Wheat From the Chaff Basic Flight Training
USN & USAAF Flight Training in WW2
USN and USAAF flight training began with Primary training taking ten weeks. Up to 40% of candidates failed to make the minimum 8hrs of supervised flight instruction and washed out of Flight Training in this period. To accomplish this, the aircraft both the USN and the USAAF employed for this task was the PT-17 Kadet made by the Stearman Airplane Corporation.
Primary training taught pilot candidates how to fly; how to take off, land, basic manoeuvres. How not to crash, but also visual flight, basic instrument flying, an. introduction to aerobatics, radio instrument navigation, formation flying and culminates with several solo flights.
The Stearman was a perfect aircraft for this. Easy to fly, rugged and forgiving mistakes and hard landings, but sporty enough to give the candidates a taste for what they had signed up for.
Here’s a typical first flight experience…
When we get up pretty high the instructor tells me that I’m in control and that he’ll tell me what to do. He tells me to move the stick with more “pressure” than motion right and left and forward and back to get the feel of the controls. Then he tells me to move the rudder with my feet, right then left. We are to make some gentle turns. Left turns are simple. Just pressure the stick a bit to the left. The left wing drops into a bank and the plane starts to turn left. With the engine turning the airplane tends to turn left so the rudder wasn’t even necessary. When I come back to level I use a little opposite pressure on the stick and a little push on the rudder pedal. To go to the right requires the stick to be moved a bit to the right and right rudder applied for a coordinated turn. After turning right and left a few times it was easy. The instructor tells me that I can determine a 45 degree bank instantly as one of the bracing wires is at a 45 degree angle so when I lay that wire flat on the horizon I’ll be at 45 degrees. That’s a neat little trick only us pilots know. After a few turns I have the feel. I can fly!“First Flight” by Hugh T. Harrington
One of the features, or lack thereof enjoyed by the candidate pilots and their instructors was the Stearman’s lack of radio. In most circumstances this was not a problem but in the event of bad weather the candidates needed to brought back to the airfield with some haste. To accomplish this, each unit had one or more recall aircraft with distinctive paint schemes for easy air to air recognition.
Revell 1/48 Stearman PT-17 Kadet
References and Credits