Archive for the 'night flying' Category

Vignettes of an Instructor’s life

All instructors had to maintain a high standard of blind-flying ability. We flew in pairs for this exercise – one as ‘look-out’ and the other under the hood. I often used this exercise to visit my brother at White Waltham where he was stationed flying for the ATA. My flight commander at one time was F/Lt Davies who possessed a bristling moustache. He and I decided to see what the food was like at Henlow which was the RAF medical centre and training hospital. The officers’ Mess was the lovely Rothschild house near the aerodrome. We walked into a large room packed with high-ranking officers – Squadron Leaders and above and not one of them with RAF wings. Davies looked them over rather pointedly – his moustache bristled and having got their attention said “bloody penguins” in a loud voice. They didn’t seem to mind and we had a good lunch.

At one time pressure was put on all instructors to sample life at the sharp end where many of our pupils would be going. We were given the option of a trip in a bomber or a Sunderland Seaplane. I chose the latter and was posted to Mount Batten, near Plymouth, for a week. My crew were enthusiastic Australians and I enjoyed their company. When we couldn’t find a U-Boat we would drop a smoke bomb and try to sink it before it expired naturally. A story going about at that time concerned a Wing Commander instructor who requested the Captain of his Sunderland, who was only a flight lieutenant, that he be allowed to take the controls. The humble F/Lt let him do so but became worried when the Sunderland headed inland and started to loose height, and alarmed when he commenced a circuit of Hendon airfield, the W/.Cs own airfield. He spoke very abruptly to the W/C and they headed back to Mount Batten where they landed. The F/Lt was worried that his abrupt words to a superior officer might do him no good. He apologised and the W/C accepted this and added “Yes, it was rather foolish of you to think I could mix up a landplane with a seaplane.” He then opened the door and stepped straight into the water!.

We lost a respected instructor when Sergeant Needham did not return from a bomber raid. Instructors also cost a lot to train. Altogether not a well thought out scheme I fear.

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