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Official flight training programs

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Topic: Official flight training programs
Posted By: askfed
Subject: Official flight training programs
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2010 at 03:09
Hello All!
I am researching the Entente pilot training programs and would appreciate any insights you have about sources.  At this point, I am especially interested in getting a handle on the secondary literature, if any.  Many fine books refer to a supposed abundabnce of literature on the training programs, but the reality seems to be that not much actually exists.  I wrote my thesis on the U.S. programs a few years ago and was surprised to discover not a single monograph on the topic.  Rebecca Hancock Cameron wrote the closest thing I could find, but she dealt with programs through WWII.  The result was that she focused most of her book on the period after 1918.  I am trying to write a comparative history of at least British and American programs, but would like to include the French experience, if possible.  The German programs will have to await an increased level in my German language proficiency before I dare tackle their archives.
Finally, I am hoping to embark on a research trip across the pond this summer.  I know the PRO and the RAF Museum have many primary sources on the topic.  Are there other locations I should be sure to include in a busy four-week trip of photographing 1000's of pages of documents?
Thank you, in advance, for any guidance you care to share.

Posted By: NickForder
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2010 at 09:29


From Recollections of an Airman, by Louis Strange, published by John Hamilton (1933)


"I joined the Ewen School at Hendon and took my Royal Aero Club Certificate, No 575, on August 5th, after which I applied for a commission in the RFC reserve, and flew Caudrons, Bleriots, Box kites and Moranes while waiting to be put on to one of the courses at CFS (Central Flying School), Upavon."


"Of the pilots who flew at Hendon at that time the names that first occur to me are Baumann, the Swiss who taught me to fly a Caudron, Temple, a Londoner who had a school of his own there,..."


"When I learned to fly, things had progresses greatly. We knew that machines into which they put us would fly, and we had expert instructors who could tell us how to fly them. All we had to do, so to speak, was to obey the instructor's directions and fly, which, of course, sounds a good deal easier than it really was.


At any rate I never had any dual control work before I took my "A" Licence, which I succeeded in obtaining about three weeks after I started my course of instruction. This was about average for the time it took in those days. I got a good deal of ground instruction, however, and in my opinion this is neglected in the majority of flying clubs to-day. It is so easy to impart when the weather is too bad for actual flying.


Our ground instruction consisted chiefly of sitting in a machine, which was put up on adjustable trestles - fore and aft and on the wing tips. In this we were shown the effect of the controls, and we had to learn thoroughly (by instinct rather than any experience based on vision) what should be the machine's attitude in regard to the ground when taxying, how to get the tail up to the correct height to gain flying speed in the shortest possible distance and how to take off. We were also taught the proper angle of climb and how to make gentle turns, glide down, flatten out to land, etc.


Our instructor made quite sure that we knew almost instinctively the correct procedure for a wheel landing and a proper three-point landing before he would even let us taxi the machine. Then we learnt to control the machine on the ground, after which we were allowed to indulge in straight flights a few feet off the ground. Finally we passed on to half-circuits, circuits (first left-hand and then right-hand), and figures-of-eight. My actual flying time before taking my ticket was only three and a half hours, which shows the value of the ground instruction we got in those days."


"I learnt to fly on a 35 hp (Anzani) Caudron, which was a tractor biplane with tail booms, the lower longerons of which acted as skids and runners."


"The Caudron was the first type of machine I learnt to fly, my instructor being E Baumann, a Swiss, who was a careful and painstaking teacher."


"'It is not for the pupil to forget what I say,' he would begin. 'That it will hurt him, I do not care for that; it is the business of the pupil if he likes to be hurt; but,' and here he would wave his arm in the direction of the shed where the remnants of the crashed machines awaited their final inquest, 'you will see I have already too much work of forgetfulness in that shed there.'"





Posted By: NickForder
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2010 at 09:30


From An Airman Marches : Early Flying Adventures 1914-1923, by Harold Balfour, Greenhill Books (1985)


"Actually it was at Hendon with Mr Baumann on a 50 horse-power Caudron biplane that I had my first flight for which I paid a guinea. I got such a thrill from it that I was mentally intoxicated  for the next twenty-four hours."


"From that moment I determined to become a pilot, and moved heaven and earth to fulfil my wish. I persuaded my father to advance the necessary £75, which was the price of obtaining a ticket, or Royal Aero Club Pilot's Certificate, at one of the civilian schools. In those days anyone who joined the RFC and who already had his ticket' could obtain a refund from the Government when he graduated as a fully fledged Flying Corps pilot. Towards the middle of June I managed to get three weeks' leave from the Regiment for the purpose of training at a civilian school at Hendon. I entered my name for the Ruffy-Baumann School of Flying, which had as its equipment one 50 Gnome and one 60 Gnome Caudron, home-built in the school sheds. The other machines belonging to the various civilian schools ranged from Caudrons of 35 horse-power to our 60 horse-power one, which was the pride of the aerodrome through its very powerful engine."


"Every morning at dawn, if the flag on the top of the shed was not moving, Baumann and I would drag out the Caudron. If the flag moved the weather was likely to be considered unsuitable for pupils. Baumann would get into the cockpit and I would start the old Gnome. If it fired on all seven cylinders Baumann would say 'All right, ve go.' If it missed on one, 'Never mind,' he would say, 'It vill be all right in zee air-ve go.' There were no instruments of any kind and the only engine control was from an electric-light switch with a piece of piping fixed to it as a lever. Dual control was fitted, but the wretched instructor in front could really do nothing as his seat was put in such a position that the pupil in the back could out-fight him easily in any dispute as to who should take charge. Our first exercise after learning to taxi the machine on the ground was straights across the aerodrome. On these we would get up to thirty or forty feet and the instructor in front would hold up his hand, first as a signal to the pupil to pull off the machine, and finally to tell him when to cut off the engine to land."


"Before going solo for straights we used to be taught how to leave the ground. You switch on the engine, push the stick forwards, and count four to yourself. When you reach that number you heave the stick back and the aeroplane should then have taken to the air. To turn we were taught to put everything just a little to the left and in due course the machine would then slowly describe a left-handed circle. Beyond this we were not given much instruction, for our chief object and our school's chief object was to get us scraped through our tickets as soon as possible."


"On July 5th, 1915, I passed my test of figures of eight and gliding to a mark, and was given Royal Aero Club Certificate number 1399."



Posted By: NickForder
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2010 at 09:31


From A Flying Fighter : An American Above the Lines in France, by Lt E M Roberts, RFC, Harper and Brothers (1918)


"I learned how to fly on a Caudron, a French type of machine with a radial engine of 100 HP and a warp control. After an hour's flight with an instructor, I had my first solo flight - that is, I went up alone. I found that I had little trouble handling the machine, and made a good landing.


On my second flight I tried my best to break the squadron's altitude record, which was

 then 11,000 feet. I was up for nearly two hours, and reached an elevation of 10,500 feet-when bang ! went the revolution counter.


This did not worry me, however. The engine showed no sign of having been impaired and kept on running. I decided to climb some more.


I was quite a ways above the clouds, in the eternal blue, when all of a sudden the engine stopped. Well, that made a lot of difference. There are no places in the air which one can throw an anchor, so there was nothing that could prevent me from coming down suddenly.


I tried to locate the trouble, but found that keeping the machine on an even keel would occupy me entirely without giving any attention to the motor. I began to dive. It so happens that a Caudron has no gliding angle. It glides as gently as a brick.


It did not take me long to fall through the clouds, which, as I had observed going up, were then about 4,000 feet above the ground. I was through that bed of dense and damp mists before I knew what had happened, but I had sense enough to keep my eyes open for the aerodrome or some other convenient spot on which to land.


Just how I would land worried me considerably. I wanted to do as little damage as possible. There were hundreds of machines in this aerodrome. Many of them would be standing about the ground and others might be on the wing.


Fortunately, no machines came into my path. I took a curve to one side of the aerodrome and made ready for the long glide that was to get me to the ground. I was nearing the ground at a great speed when I noticed the skipper waving his arms like a madman. I thought that he wanted me to steer away from some machine near me and in my haste to obey his orders I turned right towards the officer. This caused him to cease shouting and waving his arms. He started to run across the aerodrome as fast as anybody ever did run, with me and my faithful chariot just two steps  behind him. The way that skipper covered territory was a sight to behold. Well, the machine lost its momentum and then the commanding officer risked coming near us.


He seemed speechless...."


"The Caudron machine in which I continued to fly got on my nerves after a while. It was very hard to make good landings with it. One day the skipper told me that I was to land as close to the sheds as possible. I said that I would do so, and, after having had a good flip up in the air, I came down with the skipper's instructions still in mind. He was watching me. I was going to make a particularly good landing. When the wheels of the bus hit the ground for the first time, a hard bump came of it, and the fine plan I had made was thrown out of gear. Close by the place where I had intended to land stood another machine. The bump had somehow changed the direction of my plane, and since I was still going at a speed of about thirty miles an hour I feared that I would crash into the other machine.


There was only one way of preventing that ; I would have to go up again. I pulled the throttle of the motor to a ninety-mile clip, to the great astonishment of the skipper, who had fully made up his mind, it seems that I was going to break up everything. He grew wildly excited, but I did not mind him. Instead I opened the throttle some more and then zoomed over the machine and the shed beyond.


I was still zooming when I saw the trees behind the shed; they were about three times as high as the shed itself. It was a case of either getting over or crashing into them. To get over the trees I thought impossible. There is no machine that would rise that much in the short distance that lay between my machine and the tree tops.


The only thing to do to avoid a very bad spill was to have more speed. I opened the throttle still more, with the result that the machine began to want to dive. To overcome that I pulled her nose up, increased my speed again and pulled into the final zoom."


"I just got over the tree tops by a hair. Of course it was as good as a mile, but very dangerous."


"....I started back to the aerodrome....This time my landing was more successful. It was a landing of the sort the skipper liked.


I rolled right up to the shed, switched off, and climbed out."






















Posted By: NickForder
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2010 at 09:32

ADVANCED FLYING TRAINING IN A CAUDRON AT SOUTH FARNBOROUGH IN 1916 From Wings Over the Somme by G H Lewis, William Kimber (1976)


(Lewis had gained his Ticket flying Caudrons at the London and Provincial Flying School at Hendon)


"Well, on Friday they had a rotten old Caudron ready for use, so up I went in that. It was rather a difficult (different ?) affair to the old ones at Hendon, though this particular specimen was less pleasure to fly. One thing it is fitted with an 80 hp Gnome, and another the wing span is very much greater. I imagine that my Flight Commander has rather less love for the brute than I have for he sent me right up solo. I think that he must have thought it would be a quick way of putting the beast out of action. However after a few minutes deliberation I decided I would not oblige him, I did a couple of striaghts quite passably. We have a long straight of about 3/4 mile long here. After that I was ready to have a look round aloft. So up I started, (it was beautiful day, though there was a lot of drift) and had a good squint at things. I found various railways; I chased down one and got tired of it, so I followed another in the direction of London. I did a few turns to relieve the monotony, and found I was at 3,500 feet. It slowly dawned on me that it was beastly cold, so I descended to 1500 where it was decidedly better. I followed round the aerodrome and landed without mishap. My only impression was that cross-country flying must be terribly boring on a fine day, and still worse on a windy day.


On Sunday I spent most of the day waiting for them to get another Caudron into shape, one which is decidedly nicer to fly, and after I had spent the majority of the day waiting, they decided one of the inlet valves had gone. However, I managed to get into the original Caudron, but as it was rather foggy, I changed my original intention of going cross-country and confined my efforts to the neighbourhood of the aerodrome. I started off in great style with my engine missing, however, it finished missing at about 100 feet, all of which time I was busy with my eyes on the rev counter, and seeing that I didn't climb in too much hurry. These Caudrons climb like smoke.


I contented myself with a maximum height of about 2,000 and occupied my time with doing various turns. I tried some old eights again, and tried to turn a complete circle once or twice. However I was very careful and didn't try vertical banks or anything, though it is best to make good use of these scanty fine days and try to enjoy one's self.


After I had been up about 40 minutes I came down as it was beginning to get dark. To tell you the truth I find it rather boring to hang about up there for long, though I am always fairly well awake. As I was meditating an engine failure over Aldershot, it struck me that houses certainly ought to be abolished. They are made so horribly hard, aren't they ?" (16.1.1916)


"Caudrons are hated like poison down here. I don't hate them myself though they are very inefficient flying machines. However, they climb like smoke, and come down like lead. A fellow has crashed the Caudron I was flying to bits, so that it one out of the way. Another one is nearly ready, quite a good one I believe, and meanwhile I am doing some dual on an Avro (504 ?). I hope I shall soon get into that and go solo. Some of the fellows go up here when you have to hold your hat on your head. Of course I don't, and don't want to do so in a Caudron, but it is a good squadron in that way. However, it's not nice if one's engine goes to sleep." (19.1.1916)

Posted By: askfed
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2010 at 12:03

Thank you, Nick, for the great suggestions.  Beyond the personal remembrances, does anyone know of any work that examines the training programs official goals, methods, etc?  For example, the Gosport School is quite well-known, but their methods and documents remain elusive.

Again, many thanks for your help.

Posted By: NickForder
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2010 at 12:20
Pioneer Pilot by FD Tedrey is a biog of Smith-Barry
Observers and Navigators, CG Jefford, Airlife
CFS : Birthplace of Airpower, JWR Taylor, Putnams
Netheravon Airfield Camp 1913, Len Campbell
Critch ! The Memoirs of a Briadier General, AC Critchley
Air Pictorial ran a short article on Gosport
C&CI Journal (and Air-Britain ?) ran an article by Ray Sturtivant on British Training Units (see also RAF Flying, Training & Support Units, Air-Britain, and Flying Units of the RAF, Alan Lake, Airlife)
C&CI Journal Logbook had an article on criteria used to select aircrew
Naval & Military Press reprint manuals for teaching air gunnery & fighting tactics etc 

Posted By: askfed
Date Posted: 17 Feb 2010 at 21:57
Wow!  It's been fun tracking down those books and articles.  Thank you again, Nick.  The ones I could find are very helpful.  I am having some difficulty finding any of the reprinted manuals. Would you be able to point me in a specific direction for those.  I am not as familiar with the British military publishing world as I am the U.S.

Posted By: NickForder
Date Posted: 18 Feb 2010 at 08:48
The Naval and Military Press items should be available via Amazon, which I think you can order via this website ?

Posted By: Dogzbody
Date Posted: 21 Feb 2010 at 19:24
When did the practice of reclaiming the £75 fee for civilian school flying instruction from the War Office cease?
2nd Lieut Stanley Apling had completed a three month course at Oxford University priorhis posting to the Stagg Lane Civilian Flying School at Hendon in January 1918.
During this course he was billited with the family of a local Doctor in Colindale Avenue.
As Stanley was already serving with the RFC he would not have paid the Stagg Lane School a fee.
The above practice had ceased (in Stanley's case) before the formation of the Royal Air Force in April that year.

Posted By: NickForder
Date Posted: 06 Apr 2010 at 13:57
Inspecteur des Ecoles, Paris
Commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel (this was equivalent to the RFC Training Division, commanded by a Brigadier-General), who had beneath him six departments :
1. Stores and Reapair Depot
2. Technical School for mecahnics
3. Technical school for pilots
4. Eleven flying schools
5. Gunnery school
6. Pool of trained pilots ready for the front
A single flying school was the size of an RFC Training Brigade. It resembled a planet with six satellites.
In the centre, on a large aerodrome, were the offices, living quarters, mainetenance and reapair workshops. The smaller flying fields were three or four miles away. Instructors and pupils flew the machines out each morning and the handling parties went in lorries. The day's training was done 'in the country', and everybody returned home in the veneing.
The two schools visited were Pau and Avord. The basic training pattern which was followed was :
133 machines continually in the air
133 machines in reserve
133 machines in workshops
Total 399
Each machine had two pupils alloted to it, one in the air and the other ready to fly directly the machine landed.
At Pau the grand total of machines were serviced by 750 skilled and partly-skilled mechanics, 455 unskilled labourers (Tunisians and Cochin-Chinese) for swinging propellers, moving machines, etc, and 150 women - 10.2 per machine flying.
Avord, which was larger, had 180 machines continually flying, and their personnel averaged 11.1 per machine in the air.
% of 'machines constantly in the air' smashed daily
Pau - 12.5%
Training Brigades, RFC - 9.75%
Gosport - 3.11%
The French had five flying schools only. Why did the British have 44 ?
Avord - 721 aeroplanes, 12 typewriters, 82 clerks
Southern Training Brigade RFC - 652 aeroplanes, 110 typewriters, 347 clerks
Source : Pioneer Pilot : The Great Smith Barry who taught the world to fly - FD Tedrey

Posted By: NickForder
Date Posted: 06 Apr 2010 at 16:04

Learning to Fly

The early pioneers had to teach themselves to fly machines of their own invention. Soon, however, flying schools were set up by companies hoping to sell aeroplanes. Among the first to set up a school was Louis Bleriot, the Frenchman who had flown first across the English Channel in July 1909. In addition, the brochure for the Bleriot XI monoplanes included two pages on details of who to teach yourself to fly. By 1911 this had been expanded to three pages, presumably in consequence of the 50 horsepower Gnome rotary engine replacing the 25 horsepower fan Anzani.

Two pilots at Freshfield owned Bleriot monoplanes. Gerald Higginbotham taught himself to fly, using the brochure instructions for guidance. Henry Gregory Melly learned to fly at the Bleriot School at Pau, near the Pyrenees. Presumably he learned to fly in the Winter of 1909/1910 as Pau only operated during the Winter months. In the Spring weather Bleriot operated an alternative school at Etampes, some 60 km from Paris.

The Bleriot School provided a four-stage training programme :

Stage 1          Learning about the engine and controls while the aircraft was stationary on the ground.

Stage 2          Taxiing the aeroplane in a straight line using the rudder only. Aircraft with                        shortened wings and low powered engines, called ‘Penguins’ were used to                     prevent accidental take offs (without an instructor on board).

Stage 3          Taking off to a height of between one and six metres, and landing again, all in a straight line (again, without an instructor on board).

Stage 4          Take the French Aero Club Test. This consisted of flying three circles of 1 km each, all on different days. Later these circles were increased to a radius of 5 km, and landings had to be made within 150 metres of marked point.

The British Royal Aero Club Certificate tests were similar. RC Fenwick was awarded Ticket 35 and CC Paterson Ticket 38 on 29 November 1911. The tests they completed at Freshfield consisted of three flights, each of 3 miles around a circular course, all of which ended with an engine off landing 150 feet from a marked spot. Later the test was extended to consist of two distance flights of at least 5 km (3 miles 185 yards), as five figure ‘8’s around a marked course, and one altitude flight of at least 50m (164 feet). All three flights were to end with an engine off landing to within 50 m (164 feet) of a marked spot.

Melly opened the Liverpool Flying School at Waterloo in 1911 and taught using the Bleriot method.

When the Royal Flying Corps, forerunner to the Royal Air Force, was formed on 1 April 1912 it consisted of a Military Wing, a Naval Wing and a Central Flying School (CFS). The first CFS course started on 17 August 1912 and was completed on 5 December. Ten days’ leave were included in the course. Two standards of pilots were taught. Those who had yet to obtain their Royal Aero Club Certificate undertook an elementary course to get them to that standard. This consisted of flying straights and circuits, with the instructor occasionally allowing the pupil to take control until he was considered safe to fly by himself (solo). Solo flights were then made, circuiting the aerodrome, and making frequent landings until the Certificate tests could be taken.


Those who had Royal Aero Club Certificates were awarded £75 as compensation for the expense of their flying lessons. £75 was soon adopted as the standard charge for a course of flying lessons in a civilian school.   


Lectures and practical courses were examined, with a 50% pass mark in each subject and 60% overall. The written tests were on the theory of flight, internal combustion engines, formations of troops and aerial reconnaissance. Practical exams were on flying, map and compass reading, and engine maintenance.


Initially training aeroplanes did not have dual controls and so the pupil had to sit behind the instructor and reach over to ‘get the feel’ of the controls by placing no more than two fingers on the top of the control column (joystick). When the pupil moved to the front seat the instructor would have to communicate with him by hand signal.


Flying training in Britain was improved greatly from 1917 when Robert Smith Barry was appointed commanding officer of the No 1 Reserve Squadron at Gosport. He used trained instructors to teach pupils how to stall aircraft, recover from spins, make sharp turns and take off and land crosswind. A decision was made in November 1917 to use the Avro 504 as the standard trainer, and Gosport became the first of two schools to train instructors. The standards for flying training developed by Smith Barry and his staff remain the basis of flying training today.

Posted By: askfed
Date Posted: 06 Apr 2010 at 16:17
Nick,  Is your source for the second post the same as the first?  This is all terrific info and I would like to follow up by getting these sources for myself.  That way you don't have to type the entire contents! Smile

Posted By: askfed
Date Posted: 06 Apr 2010 at 16:23
Unfortunately a search of the WorldCat library system returned no entries for either the title or the author you mention in the first post of the day ( Pioneer Pilot : The Great Smith Barry who taught the world to fly -- Tedrey, F.D.).  Do you have other info on sources or can you suggest another way to locate that book?  Many thanks!

Posted By: NickForder
Date Posted: 06 Apr 2010 at 16:23
Sorry, should have given refs :
CFS : Birthplace of Air Power, JWR Taylor, Putnams (1958)
Bleriot : Herald of an Age, Brian A Elliott, Tempus (2000)
Letters from an Early Bird : The Life & Letters of Denys Corbett Wilson 1882-1915, Donal MacCarron, Pen & Sword (2006) - dreadful typos, worse than mine...
I'm compiling notes for the Freshfield Centenary schools edcation pack, and just posting sections as i complete them.

Posted By: NickForder
Date Posted: 06 Apr 2010 at 16:27

The copy I have is the Purnell Book Services Ltd book club edition (by arrangement with Peter Davies Ltd), copyright & first published 1976. Doesn't seem to have an ISDN.

Abebooks have one : -
Tredrey's 'Pilot's Summer' is worth reading too - though it is 1930s.

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