View Full Version : WW2 pilot training

Dr Jekyll
8th Jul 2019, 05:49
There is a suggestion on Quora that during WW2 some pilots were sent up in Spitfires with only 12 hours flying time. I'm sure the minimum was nearer 300, possibly 12 hours is the amount of Spitfire time some pilots had before being sent on operations. Or just possibly the amount of training already experienced pilots from Poland USA etc might have to get them used to UK aircraft before flying a single seat fighter.

Anyone know the real minimum?

8th Jul 2019, 14:49
DJ,if you go to the Mil.Aviation thread ,look for `gaining pilot wings in WW2 you`ll get the full SP`.However,basic and advanced training for most pilots would have been at least 200-250 hours ,depending on whether you started in UK,went to Canada,USA,or Rhodesia.Then one would progress to an `Operational Conversion Unit` for the particular aircraft type,ie fighters,medium ,or heavy bombers,probably another 30-50 hours,before getting to a Squadron.Obviously this did not necessarily apply at times like the BoB,and guys were sent to Squadrons with a low number of hours on type,,the expectation being that they would get training `on the job`.,or sent to a Squadron which was `stood down` for a temporary rest period out of the immediate front-line area..Not a definitive answer,just depended on who,where,when,,even for those who were already Regulars in the RAF/Aux AF at the time..

8th Jul 2019, 17:01
I believe it is true that more American pilots died in training than died in combat - but have never seen corresponding figures for the RAF

Dr Jekyll
8th Jul 2019, 18:24
Thanks Sycamore. Yes, I've read that thread or most of it, that's where I got the figure of around 300 hours from. I'm just intrigued as to where the guy on Quora got 12 hours, I see someone else has already replied with 250 hours minimum.

8th Jul 2019, 19:42
DJ, 12 hours is hardly more than time to first solo,let alone jumping into a Spitfire;however during WW1 pilots had a lot different and less structured training,aircraft used for training and fighting were very similar in performance,especially in the early year,before `fighter type` aircraft became available...so it`s possible that pilots were flying with a lot less hours of experience,but one would need to read some of the WW1 records/diaries/books to get a truer picture.....

8th Jul 2019, 21:46
I read somewhere that James McCudden was made a flying instructor after only 5 hours of pilot training. However, he had pre-war experience as a mechanic and was an experienced observer.

There's an excellent book on the subject of WW1 RFC/RAF pilot training, called "No Empty Chairs".

9th Jul 2019, 00:13
"How many hours you got on Spits Simon ? " "10 1/2 sir" "Lets make it 11, before Jerry has you for breakfast !" "spring chicken to shitehawk in one easy lesson" "taka taka taka taka taka.............."

9th Jul 2019, 07:52
My father was a WWII Hurricane/Spitfire pilot and was on the first tranche of RAF pilots to be trained in the US. From his logbook his US training comprised 60 hrs on the Stearman followed by 65hrs on the Vultee BT13 Valiant and ending with 60 hrs on the T6 Texan. Then it was straight back to UK for a short 20hr course on the Master II before his 60hr Hurricane OTU at Annan in June 1942. He joined his first squadron with a total of 285hrs. This was 2 years after the Battle of Britain so the panic to get pilots to the front line was over so I suggest that the format above became pretty typical. By contrast I note from my logbook that 28yrs later I arrived on my first squadron (Lightning) with 570hrs - exactly double.

9th Jul 2019, 08:32
"How many hours you got on Spits Simon ? " "10 1/2 sir" "Lets make it 11, before Jerry has you for breakfast !" "spring chicken to shitehawk in one easy lesson" "taka taka taka taka taka.............."

I thought you'd be there sir

10th Jul 2019, 03:58
There is a suggestion on Quora that during WW2 some pilots were sent up in Spitfires with only 12 hours flying timeThat would be in the Spitfire, not total time, all pilots had completed the normal course of training in order to earn their "wings" brevet. nipva relates a typical course, but the shortage of pilots during the Battle of Britain cut OCU training from six months to two weeks and as little as nine hours flying, so says one source, but Dowding wrote, 182. The function of these Group Pools, or O.T.Us., was to accept pilots direct from Flying Training Schools or non-fighter units of the Royal Air Force and train them in the handling of Fighter types, formation flying, fighting tactics, and R/T control and interception methods. I realised that the Fighters in France could not undertake this work and must have a Group Pool allotted primarily to meet their requirements, but I felt that, so long as we at Home were out of touch with German Fighters, I would prefer to put all available resource into new Squadrons and to undertake in Service Squadrons the final training of pilots coming from Flying Training Schools, provided that they had done some formation flying and night flying, and had fired their guns in the air.

183. Of course, when intensive fighting began, final training of pilots in Squadrons could no longer be given efficiently, and at the time of the Battle three O.T.Us., were in existence. It was found that three weeks was about the minimum period which was of practical value, but that a longer course, up to six weeks, was desirable when circumstances permitted.

184. During the Battle the output from the O.T.Us. was quite inadequate to meet the casualty rate, and it was not even possible to supply from the Flying Training Schools the necessary intake to the O.T.Us.

185. The lack of flexibility of the Training system, therefore, proved to be the “bottle-neck” and was the cause of the progressively deteriorating situation of the Fighter Command up till the end of September. This statement is in no sense a criticism of the Flying Training Command. The problem, as I state it here, can have no ideal solution and some compromise must be adopted.

186. Assuming that in periods of maximum quiescence the Fighter Squadrons of the Royal Air Force require an intake of x pilots per week, in periods of intense activity they require about ten times the number.

187. It is necessary to start the flying training of a pilot about a year before he is ready to engage Enemy Fighters, and therefore the training authorities should be warned, a year ahead, of the incidence of active periods. This is obviously impossible. If they try to be ready for all eventualities by catering for a continuous output to meet a high casualty rate, the result is that, during quiet periods, pilots are turned out at such a rate that they cannot be absorbed, or even given enough flying to prevent their forgetting what they have been taught. If, on the other hand, they cater for the normal wastage rate, Fighter Squadrons are starved of reinforcements when they are most vitally needed.