I said that I would look into this and let you know what I found. It’s been interesting and some ways informative as some assumptions that I had proved to be incorrect.
Basically RAF training was covered in three main sections which will be dealt with individually. These are:-
a) Training in the United Kingdom
b) The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
c) Training in the USA
It should be noted that as far as this posting goes training starts with the first flight training and doesn’t cover anything that happened before. For each section I attach links to the main sources of information that I used. There were others but they were to support the main sources and as such have not referenced them unless it added significantly to the piece.
I will be covering this in reverse order starting with Training in the USA. The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan should be ready in a couple of days but the UK section will have to wait until I can check some details at the National Archives.
Training in the USA
When researching this section it became apparent that RAF trainees who went to the USA were taught under two different schemes:-
1. The Arnold Scheme
2. RAF Training
The Arnold scheme was simple, RAF trainees joined USAAF trainees and were trained at USAAF bases with the same standards curriculum and examinations. This gave an unexpected opportunity to compare RAF training as undertaken in the other training schemes with USAAF training.
The RAF training in the USA was also unexpected, as I wasn’t aware that the RAF had set up independent training schools in the USA. These RAF schools were not part of the British Commonwealth Training scheme and had their own unique curriculum.
The Arnold Scheme
As mentioned earlier RAF trainees taught under the Arnold Scheme were taught alongside USAAF trainees, so this section explains the flight training undertaken by USAAF.
USAAF training had four phases:-
• Primary Flying School
• Basic Flying School
• Advanced Flying School
• Transition Training
Primary Flying School
The Primary Flying schools were civilian operated under contract for the USAAF. These civilian schools used Stearman, Ryan and Fairchild trainers owned by the USAAF, but their flight instructors were civilian employees. Each cadet received 60 hours of flight training in nine weeks.
RAF trainees had one minor difference to the USAAF, before they were sent from the UK they were given 4 hours on Tiger Moths to weed out those who may not be suitable for reasons such as air sickness, people who may be unusually susceptible to negative G, or simply discover they hate flying.
Basic Flying School
Here the aircraft were changed to BT-9 or Bt-13. Cadets were learned how to fly at night, by instruments, information and cross-country from one point to another. Also, for the first time, he operated a plane equipped with a two-way radio and a two-pitch propeller. This training took 9 weeks and involved about 70 hours in the air. It should be noted that the schools were now under USAAF control and apart from the additional complexity of the training and machinery, there was also the cultural shock as discipline was more rigorous.
Advanced Flying School
Again we have a change in aircraft to the AT-6 for future fighter pilots. The time in training was nine weeks and took about 70 hours flying time. The emphasis was on learning aerial gunnery as well as combat manoeuvres and increasing their skills in navigation, formation and instrument flying.
This is where the cadet was introduced to the aircraft to be used in combat. For a fighter pilot this took two months and about 50 hours, but was more for multi engine pilots.
RAF graduates were sent home at the end of the Advanced Flying School as the aircraft that they were to use were different. RAF graduates would be sent on an acclimatisation course of 2 weeks to get them used to flying in Britain with the weather and crowded skies before being sent to an RAF O.T.U. course. The length of this varied depending on the type of aircraft they were to fly and the time period they arrived in the UK as it constantly changed. For details of this see Training in the United Kingdom.
I left the Transition Training in as it was of interest. Personally I was surprised by the lack of time allocated by the USAAF to this vital period. I think that the impact was reduced as most trainees were sent to units in the USA giving them a period of training and adjustment before being thrown into battle. If anyone has more information on this I would appreciate it.
One other item of note was that each level of training Primary, Basic and Advanced was undertaken at different bases.
There were some interesting factors that came to light. It should be remembered that USAAF Graduates were officers; as all pilots in the USAAF were commissioned. All the RAF Graduates were Sergeants, despite having to pass the same course. The better trainees were often offered a guaranteed commission if they stayed in the USA or Canada as Instructors, but the vast majority wanted to go back to the UK.
USAAF Flight Training covered 29 weeks with approximately 260 hours.
Factsheets : AAF Training During WWII