SERVICE FLYING TRAINING SCHOOL, PART 1
Feb 9. 1942 [sic—1943]
Shall I start at the beginning. The train trip was uneventful and I had my car all to myself to Blue R. Both trains were very late due to slides, the second being particularly late so that I was allowed to stay on my train to Edmonton. We got there at 12:30. Shortly before arriving I remembered it should be the annual fraternity weekend. I phoned the house and such had been the case and as there was still a party going on at the house over I went. There were several chaps I knew there and plenty of drinks so it was quite a reunion for me the only jarring incident being the loss of 14.00 in a crap game in a very short space of time. I eventually got to bed about 5:00 in a car spotted for the second train. We pulled out about 6:00 and soon after this the porter tried to get me up at regular intervals so that my sleep was somewhat interrupted. I eventually got rather short with him and he didn’t come back. I arose leisurely at 11:00, hours after all the beds had been put away.
We got to Saskatoon about 3:00 and three of us came out here in a taxi. It is too early to say how I am going to like it here but first impressions aren’t too bright. (But the previous class say they were in a fog for the first three weeks). First of all the place is too big particularly in this cold weather. Our barrack block is furthest from the cookhouse and so is our hangar. Meals are not as good as when I was here in January. This is chiefly because we eat in a different place with no electric toasters. Rationing is not apparent yet. For the first day or so we had to go up to a central table to get sugar but they were back on the old system today.
I was up for an hour this afternoon. Ordinary level flight is easy. You can forget about the rudder and makes [sic] turns as if you were in a car except that you have to pull back slightly on the wheel. The difficulty comes in the amazing number of things to be checked. Before taking off this amounts to some 45 items. After taking off there are several things that must be done besides keeping a general check on all dials etc. For instance every time the throttle is changed you must adjust the trim. Most chaps finding landings difficult due to increased speed and poor visibility.
One chap I knew, ex Course 67, had some rotten luck. His wheels came up when he put his flaps down (This sometimes happens in very cold weather but he should have noticed it). When his props hit the snow breaking off all the tips he had the courage to ram on throttle and struggle around again (most people would probably have made a ‘belly’ landing.) Then he put the wheels down by hand crank and landed O.K. I don’t know what will happen to him yet.
We had three ground school tests this morning and after my long absence I didn’t do particularly good. I know of at least 6 errors in wireless. In the class I should have been in 5 out of 60 have been washed out so far. My pal Doug McGrath is still there. He says he didn’t like it at first but now thinks it is grand. He soloed under six hours but I believe they give up to fourteen. I hope I don’t need it.
Feb 10 [Tony’s birthday] Had another hour of flying today doing circuits. I made one landing by myself except that I was talked in and it was a good one. I still don’t see how I am going to get on to all the checks for my mind seems to go blank when I try to think of them in the air.
Learnt today that the chap who broke the tips off his props was washed out. They just didn’t believe his story but due to some technical reason could not discharge him on account of the accident. So they gave him a flying test which was quite impossible to pass with the hours he had.
With love form
Feb. 18. 1943
I am very glad to be able to say I have soloed. Did it yesterday after 7:40 hours flying of which about 5:20 was spent on the circuit. For our preliminary flying we use a field some distance from here and the extra time is flying to and from this field. Yesterday I made a few circuits with my instructor and he taught me what to do if one engine failed. He said I wouldn’t be likely to get one engined [sic] procedure on my solo check but on my next trip which was a solo check with the flight commander the f/c cut one engine just after we took off. It was quite a surprise but I knew pretty well what to do. As the particular ship we had would not climb on one engine I told the instructor we would have to land wheels up straight ahead. After that we completed a normal circuit.
My solo landing was very smooth but was tail up—a landing sarcastically called TCA landing around here.
This morning I was on link which was a pity as it is a beautiful day—thawing in the sun. Also link is just as much a bugbear as ever. The ones we use now have a wheel instead of a stick and many more instruments some of which like radio we won’t use for some time.
They have started giving us P. T. three times a week. It is probably quite a mild form of it but to us who are not used to it it is anything but.
Feb 19 I started this letter yesterday noon and the day finished up so miserably I was in no mood to finish it. At 5:30 we had a muster parade. Unlike an other station this one does not post DROs in the barrack blocks or even the hangars and as a result they are not often read so that very few knew the parade was to be an inspection. Only the aircrew were penalized but about 40% of us were caught for wearing khaki shirts. We are CBed until further notice and have to clean all the snow off the parade ground which is a very big job even for so many men.
They caught me for haircut and buttons as well as the shirt. This was because the night before a sgt. telling us about the parade said we would not have to wear great coats and that there would only be a role [sic] call. The thing lasted until 7:00 by which time supper was rather spoiled.
Tonight I went down for a haircut. After waiting 45 minutes the lights went out and due to inefficiency somewhere they can’t be fixed tonight.
I had 2½ hours flying this morning, one hour being solo. I was in a Crane 1A this morning instead of the Crane 1 which I had been flying before and the instrument panel is absolutely different which is rather confusing at first. The last flight was on still a different ship—my first experience with constant speed propellers which is just one more thing to adjust all the time.
I am sorry to hear about Bob Davis. The mishap likely occurred on his height test in which you climb to around 15.000 keeping a written record of certain instruments. The class ahead of us have been doing this the last few days. I heard that 14 out of 31 washed out in Bob’s class at Dauphin. Four of my class were washed out today.
I forgot to mention before the reason for the second telegram. Jericho hospital phoned #6 even though I had left the hospital and probably said I was still there. It is very strange that Jericho knew nothing about it when I phoned them shortly before I got on the train. It was rather bad luck on one chap who instead of getting two weeks leave had to leave for Dauphin on about an hours notice.
With love from
Feb 25, 1943.
Our C. B. was lifted about Tuesday. We did not have to clean the parade ground but instead had to paint various rooms in the hangars such as locker rooms. This is being done in preparation for an expected visit by the A. O. C. Tonight we had a parade after supper as further preparation. It was rather a farce and indicated that most of the officers had forgotten most of their drill particularly the CFI who was in charge tonight for he got us all back to front.
Today was a good example of how busy one can be kept here. We have to be over at the hangars by 7:15 even though the instructors don’t turn up till about 7:45. Then I flew all morning without even time for a cigarette and logged 4½ hours finishing up at 12:30. It then took about 15 minutes to mark my time on a temporary log, mark it up on a blackboard and break the time down on an analysis sheet and get out of my flying kit. Then lunch and over to ground school by 1:30 which lasts until 5:30. Then the parade from 6:45 to 8:00. After which I suppose we are expected to study.
On the whole we have been having ideal weather. Warm and very sunny and it is very enjoyable up in the air. I have 24 hours in now and like it more and more. I am becoming fairly accustomed to all the instruments etc. and it no longer seems a particularly onerous job to look after so many. I think I am going to find they are much easier to land than the moths too because I made several nice three pointers today while practising landings at the auxiliary field and on one circuit I saw a plane off to my starboard as I made my final turn into the wind. It was some distance away so I thought no more about it but concentrated on my approach. As I levelled off just above the ground I noticed the plane had caught up to me and was about a wing span away on my starboard. I knew that I should open the throttles and go around again but my hour was up and I was darned if I was going to. Also the other plane had overtaken me so it should have gone around again also. It so happened that the other plane had an instructor in it who should have realised I would probably be green and not know enough to go around. Anyway the control tower spotted the incident and from their angle of vision it must have looked very close for my own instructor said both of us were on the peg. In addition this other instructor had no business to be at this field so he was in a bad spot however I have heard nothing further so I guess the matter has been dropped.
Another day I forgot to slam my door when I got in and just after taking off I was horrified to notice it was open about 5 inches. (The day before a chap had got 21 days CB for only taxying [sic] with it open.) Fortunately you can just reach the door but I was in a bit of a panic when it would not close at first. It took quite an effort. More fortunately still the incident was not noticed by the control tower. Don’t get the idea I am careless. I religiously check the ‘vital actions’ before every take off saying them out loud as I do them. And I have added the door to the long list which makes up the cockpit check. I have got an awfully nice instructor. He is only about 22 bet very careful. He never talks harshly as some of the instructors do but still he makes sure you do things correctly. He demonstrated low flying one day which is most enjoyable. However it is something I would not do myself without a great deal of experience for the ground really moves passed [sic] you in a hurry.
We have an indirect method of rationing butter. It is made to go further by whipping it with caned milk. You don’t notice much difference except that it is not nearly so solid and is ideal for spreading.
With love from
Y. M. C. A.
ON ACTIVE SERVICE
March 4 1943
Your letter and the parcel arrived today but the latter is still down at the post office. This is because someone else got my mail just before closing and a third party cannot take out a parcel. I am feeling very hungry too.
I am awfully sorry to hear about Jimmy Bond. I wonder why they use land planes on the coastal reconnaisance [sic]. I had a letter from Bunny. He says the course requires a lot of work but it is fairly interesting. He was a bit concerned over P. E. I.’s state of prohibition.
Life has been pretty miserable around here lately but the Inspector General, an air vice marshall [sic], paid us a visit today and looked us over so perhaps things will ease off now. We have been cleaning and recleaning the flight rooms for ages and last night this disease of cleanliness reached its crisis. At 6:00 we had to clean out our barrack block (we made a wonderful job of the floor with a can of Bon Ami) and arrange our lockers for inspection. In regard to the lockers everything non issue had to be removed and even books had to be hidden away in kit bags. I took everything out except two khaki shirts, a towel and the hold all. About 6:30 a WO2 checked over our work. About 7:00 a flying officer went thru. Later a flight lieutenant made a check and finally about 9:45 a squadron leader. During all this time we could not leave the hut and it was not practicable to study for a navigation exam we had today as all books had been put away and we did not know when the next visit was coming.
I doubt if there is one man in aircrew who likes the way he is treated. We have to work very hard and get very little time off and yet we are treated like dogs over at the hangars. It is pretty annoying to have the flight commander or some lesser official tell the flight that they have a very poor attitude and will really have to smarten up if they want to keep flying when we are doing our best. When we were told this we were also told we were far behind in our flying. The next day we were told we would start night flying next week as we were so far ahead of schedule. I don’t see how I will be ready for night flying as you are supposed to have 8 hours of ‘under the hood’ flying first and I have only two. This is the least of any but my total time is at least up to the average which is around 35 hours. The day before yesterday I had a 30-hour progress test. I wasn’t quite up to my best as I was in a ship with constant speeds props. which I have not used much but I think I got by O.K.
Our warm weather has passed and we are having extreme cold (certainly for March) accentuated by a bitter north wind. Yesterday afternoon this wind became very strong and flying was washed out. Just before 6:00 when the wind reached 38 m.p.h. news came in that 7 moths were coming form P. A. I was sent out as runway man. (The runway man stands in a glass cage mounded on a panel delivery which is stationed at the head of the landing path and signals with Aldous lamp or Verey pistol when necessary, i. e. when someone forgets to put his wheels down or two planes are too close.) It was interesting to see those poor little Moths land in that wind for when they touched down their ground speed would only be about 7 m.p.h. The first six landed safely although all the way down they were being bumped all over the place. No. 7 appeared to be making the best landing of all but after it touched down the wind got it and it ground looped. It went for about 150 feet at right angles to its original course with one wing scraping the snow then got back into wind without apparent damage. It is a wonder it wasn’t blown over on its back.
When I was up on my progress check a blanket of clouds about 500 feet thick started to roll in at 4000 feet. We flew toward them which was also toward the sun and on reaching them flew about two feet above. The sensation was like climbing a gradual sunny slope. Quite strange but very pleasant. We flew straight ahead for twenty minutes until land could only be seen far in the distance in one direction. The clouds didn’t move very fast for we got off this strange table very close to where we first met it.
On Saturday night Doug. McGrath and I went to town for a steak dinner and show. I lent him some of my vast resources so that he could purchase an engagement ring.
I can imagine how concerned you must have been over Bink’s being A.W.O.L. How dumb he is. [Binky was a spaniel.]
One day I went on a cross country map reading exercise which lasted 2:15 hrs. We went almost to Dafoe then south a bit and back. It is preparation for later flights dual and solo when we have to calculate wind velocities, ground speeds, time of arrival etc. while flying the plane accurately as to airspeed and true course. It sounds an impossibility.
With love from
P. S. I think everybody finds Link as bad as I. I did a “T” track test a few days ago which was the finish of elementary review. Now I am on to Service flying work which will be perhaps a little easier at first for certain helpful gyro instruments are now uncaged.
March 9. 1943.
I managed to get my instrument flying time in by Sunday night—eight hours of it in four days. The longest single trip was two hours. We flew down to Watrous and then I took the hood down and my instructor did some low flying for relaxation for me before the return trip. He did this low flying about 160 m.p.h. so the ground really moved passed [sic] in a hurry.
We started night flying on Monday. On the first trip two of us went with our instructor on a navigation trip of 316 miles. (Saskatoon—Lucky Lake—Humboldt—Rosthern—Saskatoon.) I acted as navigator and the other student was first pilot. The instructor was radio operator, reporting our position from my log every few minutes. It was twilight when we started but soon became very dark but it was very easy to navigate provided you kept your position up to date. Each time we passed near a town I could figure out the ground speed in a few seconds and then the estimated time of arrival at the next turning point. These ETA’s were very accurate—once I was out 30 seconds—another time right on—the worst was perhaps two minutes out. It was a most enjoyable trip perhaps because it came off so smoothly.
As soon as we got back the ship was gassed up and we did the trip again changing positions. This was not so much fun for we were getting cold and tired. Also the shop flew one wing low and I found it difficult and tiring to hold an accurate heading. I don’t know how my pilot did so well on the first trip. There must have been some ground fog for we did not know our exact position on the first leg and had to turn on E. T. A. but after that it was O.K. Both the instructor and first pilot are equipped with ear phones so I could hear all the radio communication. Quite a lot of backchat goes on. Somebody was singing “Bury me out on the lone prairie” with my instructor whistling the refrain. Sometimes the control tower could not hear us and then some other plane would relay our messages. Our log books show a total of six hours for these two trips although we weren’t actually in the air this long so we were quite ready for bed at 0130.
Last night I started flying at 2345 doing circuits and bumps. After one circuit my instructor (the flight commander) decided to change the flare path as it was no longer into wind. I was one of the three to go out in the truck to do this job which took an hour—no fun either on a cold, windy night. Then we went up again and after 2:35 hrs dual I went up solo for an hour. Actually during this dual I only got about four landings for most of the time we were tooling about over the city waiting for permission to land while the flare path was being fixed. It was an awful flare path by the time I got up solo. Almost half the main lights were out and almost all the taxi strip lights. You had to get quite close before you really knew where to land. I only got in two solo landings because they shot up a Red verey which meant we were not to land. This was because one of the boys had an electrical failure and was flying around with no lights at all so they let him come in when none of us would be around. I was one of the last three to finish up this morning and so had to help gather up the flares again. It is a very dirty job and my flying suit is covered with soot and coal oil. It was seven o’clock when I got to bed—just when the day flying boys were getting up. I was up again at noon for ground school. What a tough week it is going to be.
I am glad to say the cookies arrived in very good shape. Only a few were broken and perhaps they were like that to start with. They were delicious and I should love some more.
In the 4th week exams I got 89.75%–which is slipping a bit as the exams were rather easy.
An addition to the curriculum here is observer-navigation trips in Ansons. These trips have a crew of five—three being students—pilot, 1st navigator and 2nd nav. The 1st nav. does all his work on a mercator map—the lat. and long. of various pin points being given to him by the 2nd nav. The 1st nav. would not have to look out of the plane at all but his work must be fast and accurate. One such trip this morning lasted 3:40 hrs. We get six hours of this in each of the three capacities.
With love from
March 22 /43.
We finished up our night flying last Thursday. We encountered a lot of bad weather which is why it took so long to get the necessary 18 hours. Since that time the weather has been perfect—thawing hard the last few days. It will soon be very messy around here.
I had my first 48 over the weekend which I spent in town with Doug. McGrath. It was not particularly exciting but still a pleasant change to have some good meals and a hotel bed. Managed to get a bottle of scotch from the liquor store. We now have to pay 1.00 for a permit—previously Saskatchewan had no permits at all.
They have started rationing butter at the station now—one pat per meal. I find this will just cover 1½ pieces of bread so I imagine we get less than you now.
We are supposed to have P. T. three times a week. Near the beginning of the course I was transferred from one half of the class to the other and due to the laxity of the system my name is now not on the P. T. roll call. Today was the first of many times when I intend to take advantage of this. During the night flying period I did not have to because we were all excused.
I hope Dad has now recovered completely from the flu.
With love from