Archive for the 'navigation' Category

Flying at Booker – navigation

Apart from teaching our pupils the art of flying they were taught the art of navigating their way about the country. Use of the compass, the effect of wind etc. As the duration of their course at Booker was a fixed one the weather was often the limiting factor and sometimes we were unable to get our pupils up to the solo stage. But the war would not stop to suit our convenience, so we just had to do our best. It cost a lot to train a pilot up to flying a Spitfire or a Lancaster and if we could sort out the likely pilots from the unlikely ones at the beginning of their training a lot of money and time would be saved. Thus the grading scheme was started and a few instructors were chosen to carry it out. I was one of these. We were required to test all pupils who had failed to go solo and any others with whom their instructors had some doubt. Thus produced some interesting results including my only crash!

The pupil had not soloed but was considered ready but for poor weather. His general flying was good and his approaches and landings good. Normally I would have sent him on a solo flight, but there was something about him that worried me. I said to him “I am going to ask for one more circuit; you had it all your own way so far and I am going to give you a small problem”. I handed over to him on the start of the approach and final leg – but about 20 feet too high. He closed the throttle and started the approach at the correct speed there was plenty of airfield ahead – and I mentally relaxed and removed my had from the stick thinking ‘he’s OK’ when suddenly he pushed the stick hard forward. We hit the ground – the undercarriage crumpled and the propeller was quickly reduced to the boss. For some time after this I was known as ‘crasher Steynor’.! Another moment I remember was testing a pupil who had not soloed and after putting him through all the most fiendish positions to which he reacted as an experienced pilot would I said “I find it hard to believe you have never soloed. As far as I am concerned you can go solo whenever you want to”. I have a strong feeling that I was being tested by the Air Ministry as to my ability for this job as a grading officer.

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