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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

Old 13th Jun 2013, 20:49
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Danny your description of the Leaving of Thornaby brings back long forgotten memories, of calling cards (I still have the rump enders, in their buff coloured cardboard box, along with the engraved copper plate ready to run off another gross if I should enter a space time continuum and start all over again), of the correct way to "PPC" as well as to arrive at a new Mess.

I've no idea if the "Customs of the Service" have been updated (do you now simply email the entire mess membership, or "Blog" them?). Even in the 60's it all struck me as somewhat archaic, like living out a PG Wodehouse plot. The first thing I had to purchase before even reporting for my first day's service was a "pork-pie" hat. That was in order that it could be doffed to all Ladies and to all Officers when one was in civvies. Moral; stay indoors unless wearing sports gear!

The Pewter Tankard was still the standard Record of Service as you moved from unit to unit. I got a rather fancy one on my last full day in Singapore. It had a glass bottom to it (so that you could check that it didn't contain a recruiting Sergeant's shilling before swigging from it). The inevitable happened later when, tired and emotional from it all, I dropped it and broke the glass. In a panic I went down to Changi Village (which could out-Harrod Harrods!) and they arranged to replace it by next morning with an identical one, fully badged and inscribed as the original, for a small consideration. I have it, and its sisters, still.
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Old 14th Jun 2013, 00:13
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Danny has to Choose.

The Course at Weston was more or less a re-run of the one I'd had five years before at Driffield, except that by now intentional spins had been prohibited (and a good thing, too). And the RAF's paranoia about Meteor engine failures had gone one step further. Besides doing the practices with the "dead" engine idling, now they would only do Flame-out landings dual. Each such FOL had to be recorded in your logbook, and my end-of-course Summary added, as a useful bit of extra information, that I had been guided through five of these.

With no engineering or background experience to call on, I can only recall one jet engine failure (a Viper) for any reason other than fuel starvation, or bird ingestion, in my entire service. All jet engines seem to be extremely reliable, and Rolls-Royces above all others. When I look back on the toll of accidents and fatalities in Meteors during the early '50s from FOL training alone, I cannot help thinking that it might have been better if we'd forgotten all about it, and let the rare unfortunate take his chance.

As I expected, flouting the 10,000 ft restriction caused me no problems at all. I put in 12 hrs on the 4 and the T7, and was duly assessed, on my 414, as a "proficient" Meteor pilot. My last flight from Weston was on the 16th November. On the 19th of the month, I went up to the CMB for what was to prove the very last time.

I thought I had a good fighting chance. By now I knew the "production line" of tests like the back of my hand, sailed through them all, blew up the mercury, sinuses were clear now, lung spot still the same (it's no worse today). Now for the Board. I rehearsed my arguments.

Across the desk sat a kindly, grey-haired old family doctor (thinly disguised as an Air Commodore). I went straight in with my story. He was taken aback and frowned a bit when I told him about how simple it had been to bounce my way onto and through the Course. So I pressed my advantage, concluding that I'd clearly demonstrated that the height restriction was quite unjusified, and pointing out that his ENT man was now quite happy with me. So what about a return to a full flying category and my LCPC as GD(Pilot) ?

He sighed. "It's not as straightforward as that. You may be fit now. But you hope to serve another 17 years on that Commission. How do we know that your condition may not become worse in a year, five, ten, fifteen years down the line ? We may then have to invalid you out with an enhanced pension on account of your disability (for it would not be hard to argue that it had been exacerbated by your flying). To put it bluntly, it's not on".

"The best we can offer is this: We will continue your limited flying category for the balance of your SSC (only two years now), and then you're out. Or we'll give you A4G1, which will enable you to take up the LCPC offer in ATC. Choose now".

It was Hobson's Choice. I would be getting married soon, I would have to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. "I'll take Air Traffic Control", I said, "Thank you, Sir".

The die was cast. I went back to Weston - for I'd been posted there, so there was no return to RAF Thornaby. Three days before I'd been a "proficient" Meteor pilot (or so the 414 said).

Now I was no pilot at all, but there were better things to come.

Goodnight, all,

Danny42


Sic transit gloria mundi.

Last edited by Danny42C; 14th Jun 2013 at 17:54. Reason: Add subscript.
 
Old 14th Jun 2013, 07:32
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One of my earliest childhood memories was seeing the 'crash compound' at RAF Weston Zoyland piled high with silver and yellow-banded Meteor wreckage...

After the RAF left, during our trips to our works on the aerodrome, the massive earth-moving machinery being used to rebuild the roads was of rather more interest to a small boy though.

A couple of photos of RAF Weston Zoyland here: In pictures: New archive documents RAF Westonzoyland airfield (From Bridgwater Mercury)
.

Also some photos of Westonzoyland aerodrome as it is now:


Last edited by BEagle; 14th Jun 2013 at 07:33.
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Old 14th Jun 2013, 08:31
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Assymetric Practice on the Meteor.

Dredging the past through fading memory and old Log books I recall being one of the last pilots to qualify on the Meteor (1971) at CFS. My conversion training stressed the necessity to keep the IAS at less than 120Kts on finals when only on one engine and the absolute essential of making a commitment decision (land or overshoot) at 600ft.

Keeping in balance on one at 120 Kts involved vast rudder/leg forces if any thrust was applied on the live engine. Moreover, the port engine supplied the pneumatic pressure (brakes); the starboard provided the hydraulic (u/c). The choice had to be well anticipated whether committed to land or overshoot. Get it wrong and the Meatbox was very unforgiving.

Almost all difficulties stemmed from the 120 kts approach speed. This seemed to be a residue of the earlier days when runways were fairly short and stopping more of a challenge on jets. Flying finals at 140 kts minimum removed most of the handling problems! Most runways offered at least 2000 yds in the 70s and diversion to longer landing strips was usually available.

As I was suffering the post of fast jet trapper I was able to raise the finals speed to min 140 kts. (Very few active Meatbox pilots left). Life on finals on one became less problematical. Later, flying the Meatbox on 79 at Chivenor/Brawdy seemed a very "gentlemanly pastime".

On a final note regarding the alarming toll of accidents practicing assymetric approaches, as I was about to fly my first Meatbox solo my instructor gave me a final piece of advice. If you have a real engine failure do a run and break from 600 ft (on one about 250 kts plus), close the live throttle over the caravan, break high onto the downwind and do a dead stick landing-works every time.
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Old 14th Jun 2013, 13:33
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The last time I saw Meteors being flown by an RAF unit was when I was at Changi. In 1971, I watched as 1574 Target Facilities Flight's Meteors were being broken up and carted away. The Singapore Armed Forces didn't want them and they were certainly not going to be flown back to Blighty, so they were scrapped on site. I believe civilians flew them as target facilities aircraft in UK for a while after that, but there were no more in proper RAF service.
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Old 14th Jun 2013, 14:16
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Having instructed on Meteors at M St G and Tarrant Rushton from '52 to '54 then served on a Meteor squadron, and also flown the Chivenor and Changi aircraft at various times between 1957 and 1969 (my last flight in the RAF was to ferry one to St Mawgan prior to the Chivenor runway being resurfaced) I firmly believed that the 600ft asymmetric decision height was to be used to convert height to speed and to ease the climb back to the circuit at a reasonable IAS. So many tried to go around from 600' without loss of height! Of course full flap was not lowered until one was committed to land. And to see some unsuspecting student try to "clean up" whilst using the hand hydraulic pump with the starboard engine out was a joy to behold.
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Old 14th Jun 2013, 15:06
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The last time I saw Meteors being flown by an RAF unit was when I was at Changi. In 1971, I watched as 1574 Target Facilities Flight's Meteors were being broken up and carted away. The Singapore Armed Forces didn't want them and they were certainly not going to be flown back to Blighty, so they were scrapped on site. I believe civilians flew them as target facilities aircraft in UK for a while after that, but there were no more in proper RAF service.
There was a Meteor at Chivenor in the very early 1970s, flown by Flt Lt Bill Arrowsmith and used to train army FACs and ACOs.
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Old 14th Jun 2013, 22:17
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Meteors Ancient and Modern.

Beagle,

Another wonderful link ! Following it, and looking at the first picture of the three T7s, it occurs to me:

(a) In what Golden Age did the RAF have so many bowsers that it could refuel three aircraft "one to one" at the same time ?

(b) Was I the only one to have a sensation of claustrophobic doom when that huge barred canopy swung down over your head, and clanged into position with an awful finality ?

(c) Was ever aircraft bulled-up like the one nearest camera ? Truly, "Motorists wise - SIMONIZE !" (as we used to say)......D.


Fixed Cross and 26er,

With barely 40 hours on type as a stude, I stand in awe of your depth of experience ! As far as I can remember the survival techniques we were taught, the main thing was: "Do not go below 150 knots until the landing is 'in the bag'."

Fixed Cross, I think you meant "more than 120 knots" on finals". The idea of a 600 ft decision height sounds sensible. The Bloggs of my day was left with the belief that, with 120 knots, you could go-around almost from the threshold. The "Middleton Ghost", I was told, tried a roller on one when he was running out of runway, but the bird would'nt fly. He careered off cross-country, it was just hard luck that the Mess got in his way after that.

Too true, speed was/is our friend. A slow prang in the overshoot is always preferable to a fast one in the undershoot !.....D


Blacksheep and ricardian,

Yes, it would seem that the last gasp of the Meteor was as a target tug (might have ended my days on that job, as it turned out)......D.

EDIT: Blacksheep, your Thornaby Meteor would have been the single one that 608 Squadron had for I/F training and Rating tests. Hours on it were closely guarded, I never got to fly it (not that I particularly wanted to, as Vampires were on tap all time). From the cockpits, it would be long way for an 8 yr old to fall - hope they looked after you.......D.

Cheers to you all,

Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 14th Jun 2013 at 22:58. Reason: Premature Post
 
Old 14th Jun 2013, 22:19
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I wasn't considering the odd aeroplane being flown by RAF pilots. I was considering a formal unit, equipped with Meteors and flying as an operational formation.

My soft spot for the Meteor is that it was the aircraft that first fired me up for a career in aviation. I have a photo of myself and my best friend, both aged 8 at the time, in the cockpit of a Meteor taken at RAF Thornaby on a BoB Day in 1955.
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Old 15th Jun 2013, 09:06
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More Meatbox asymmetric comment.

With the Mods permission for thread drift:

My goodness you chaps have caused some turbulence in the old pad. Mrs FC is not amused! Last evening after the traditional glass or two of "attitude adjustment" and shooting at the wrist watch with the right hand, my thoughts drifted back to Meatbox handling. To reinforce my recollection I ventured into the gloom of the loft seeking old scraps of service memorabilia and discovered a long forgotten set of Pilots Notes for the Meteor F8&9.

The section on asymmetric handling is brief. It states "maintain a speed of 140kts until the decision to land has been made (145kts on large intake aircraft-deep breathers to those in the know). Aim for a threshold speed of 105-110 kts and a final approach speed 15 kts higher. An overshoot at decision height with the port engine operating will involve a decent until a safety speed of 145kts is attained and full power can be safely applied for the climb". The U/C and 1/3 Flap should be left in place throughout.

Thank God the Hunter only had one engine...
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Old 15th Jun 2013, 09:16
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In 1975-6, I was fortunate enough to have 3 back seat rides in WA669 'Clementine', one of the 2 Brawdy meatboxes, during air-to-air firing sorties. The take-off brief included a brief for assistance with full rudder in the appropriate direction, should an engine fail....

A fascinating experience; the speed had to be kept in a narrow band between safe single engine speed and banner towing limiting speed. I was allowed a brief couple of minutes stick time at height and found the control harmony excellent.

After the banner was released at the end of the sortie, we'd go out to the IP and run in for the break. Another critical aspect of T Mk 7 flying than became apparent - after double checking that the airbrakes were in, the landing gear was lowered but always came down asymmetrically - requiring some deft and essential footwork to keep the ball in the middle.

I was surprised that few of my fellow students took the opportunity of a trip in the venerable old beast - I thought it was something which shouldn't be missed.

More Meteor tales in this old thread: http://www.pprune.org/military-aircr...tatistics.html
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Old 15th Jun 2013, 10:20
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I think that the Mods are as entranced as the 'rest of us' by this wonderful thread as it meanders along crisscrossing the tale that Danny is the current
custodian of.
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Old 15th Jun 2013, 18:50
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Meteor Tales of Woe.

BEagle,

Another winner ! Everybody with an interest in the subject must click onto
Meteor Accident Statistics. Keep you enthralled for hours (well, it'll keep me, and I feel I could add something to almost every one of the Posts, if only "Amen"). Thank you, BEagle !

I can only comment on one point. The MSG Ghost story is told with alternative endings. One has it that he, somewhat ungallantly, punched through the wall of the O.M. Ladies (luckily unoccupied). The other (correct) version is that he went through the (ground floor) window of his own room, and might well have survived. But the impact took away most of the side supporting brickwork and (in the exact words of my authority: "the lintel fell on his swede").

My authority is (was ?) Flt. Lt. John Henderson, ATC, ex-war pilot, who was in the Weston Zoyland tower when I went through there, was with me in Strubby tower, had been in MSG tower at the time of the incident and much later was SATCO at Teesside Airport.

Danny.
 
Old 16th Jun 2013, 23:41
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Danny finds out all about "Hirings".

The obsequies were brief. I handed in my flying overalls, helmet and goggles at the Flights (I seem to have forgotten "Spectacles, Anti-Glare Mk VII", for they are still with me in their blue box - I wonder how that happened ?). It was cease-work on a winter afternoon, I walked into the hangar. The Meteors were being put away for the night, right in front of me was VW290, a Mk.IV, the last entry in my log, the end of my flying career.

It was no sort of "Arab's farewell to his Steed" moment. The Meteor was never one of my favourites. But it had been 14 years almost to a day since a callow youth had walked, hopefully but nervously into a Recruiting Office in Liverpool and signed on the dotted line. It should count for something. Curiously, some weeks later, I found out (by what means I cannot imagine, still less recall), that the RAF had a job lined up for me if I'd made the other choice - a Meteor tug pilot on the AGS at Acklington !)

For the time being, Weston lost interest in me. I had several weeks' leave over Christmas, some at home, but most of it with my fiancée in Marton. In the New Year Of '55 I went back. The Devil, as is well known, finds work for idle hands. At Weston, the W/Cdr(A) filled in for him. Of course, a supernumerary officer is fair game for any job that nobody else wants to do. And in all conscience, I cannot complain at what I drew out of the hat.

Until Google came along, I'd no idea when the idea of the "Hiring" system of civilian MQs was first mooted (it seems that it was up and running in July '49, as there were Parliamentary Questions about it then). But even as late as '55, it was a bit of a mystery to most people, and in any case only the married ones had to think about it.

On posting to an RAF Station (and some are really "out in the sticks"), a married officer/airman's first thought must be: "where are we going to live ?" If it was a well-established place, there would be Married Quarters on the Station (but never enough to go round). Any vacant ones would be allotted to the more fortunate (?) few who qualified under a system of Byzantine complexity. These would occupy a MQ of the size (and pay the rent for) one appropriate to their rank.

Historically, the rest were out in the cold. They had to lease local furnished properties on the open market; in some areas the rents would be very high, beyond the purse of a junior serviceman. But how about an arrangement whereby he might find a suitable place, the RAF would take the tenancy (usually for a minimum of a year) and pay the agreed rent - but then sub-let it to him at just the rent of his quarter ?

Not surprisingly this idea was welcomed all round. The Landlords liked it, they were sure of their tenant, the rent would be paid whether the place was occupied or not, they no longer feared "moonlight flits", the RAF would pay for damages above "fair wear and tear" at the end of the tenancy.

The first serviceman got a place which he had himself chosen, but the cost to him was only that of his MQ rent: this was usually well below the going rate. Everbody was happy, and how they got this past the Treasury, I'll never know. Everybody ? well, not quite.

More about this next time (sorry to bore you, but it's an integral part of the story).

Goodnight, all,

Danny42C


Home, sweet home.
 
Old 18th Jun 2013, 18:10
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Danny the Estate Agent.

......"got a place which he himself had chosen" ......(I said). The RAF did not go out to do any house-hunting on its own account. You had to find a place for yourself, find out if the landlord was willing to enter into the Hiring scheme and what the rent and conditions were, then put the proposition up to the Station Housing Officer. He would then inspect the property and its furnishings, to ensure that they were of a reasonable size and standard in relation to the rent asked.

At this time a decent small place would be on the market for 3 - 5 guineas per week (say £400 - £600 p.m. today), which is pretty well in line with what is asked round here now. (I think 5 guineas was the most the RAF would pay). Only then, and given that the station had still got scope for more hirings, would the Station Housing Officer sanction the arrangement. This would involve an already harassed individual in even more time-consumimg work. But why have a dog and bark yourself ? Step forward, Danny.

I did quite a number of these inspections in the next three months I spent at Weston. As to suitability, my criterion was simply: "would I be content to live in this place myself ?" If not, it was out of Court straight away, no matter how low the rent. For I had to consider not only the chap in front of me, but the next man to whom the hiring might be offered. If the rental asked was excessive, I would say so, but remand the case to the Housing Officer to decide.

The curious thing was that at first there was no correlation between the desirability of the place and the rent asked for it. One day I would be offered some wretched hovel for which the owner brazenly expected to get the full five guineas. The next, I would see a perfectly nice, well kept house; the (usually elderly) householder would timidly ask "would three guineas be too much ?" Of course, this happy state of affairs did not last for very long, and soon £5/5 became the standard price asked for everything (whether they got it or not was another matter).

The ones to whom I gave the green light were never grateful for very long. But there were other cases where I'd had to harden my heart and say "No" (with the next man in mind). These unlucky ones could still take the place themseves, of course, and pay the landlord the rent demanded, but that might be twice the rent of a MQ and put it out of their reach.

In this way I had to disappoint a number of people, these did not suffer in silence, I was not the most popular kid on the block. However, the experience gained was valuable and would come in extremely useful to me later.

That's the lot about Hirings, you'll be pleased to know.

Goodnight, chaps,

Danny42C


"We must all of us be somewhere, and I might as well be here" (Well known obiter dicta of an old High Court Judge)

Last edited by Danny42C; 18th Jun 2013 at 18:13. Reason: Add text.
 
Old 18th Jun 2013, 18:38
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Danny,

Don't be apologetic. I for one have just understood why several of the "accommodations" provided to me and my family in 30 years of RAF service were a bit dodgy. It also explains why one will be a great place and sometimes, for the same money, rubbish. Maybe the rubbish ones didn't have as discriminating an invigilator (as yourself) when originally accepted. How often would many decisions be more valid if the decision maker had put himself in the "recipients" position ?

Keep up the good work Danny, it's all very relevant, and means a lot to your readership.

Smudge
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Old 19th Jun 2013, 13:13
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Forgive me if this has already been posted but I found this short 1950 film on the R Aux AF. It may stir a few memories.
http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=1b6_1323049249mmitch.
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Old 19th Jun 2013, 15:12
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A lot of dust around....................
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Old 19th Jun 2013, 21:36
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What a smashing bit of film that was. Hope it brings back a few good memorIes for Danny and others. Thanks for sharing it with us Mitch.

Smudge

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Old 19th Jun 2013, 23:41
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Arrow R.Aux.A.F Video

mmitch,

Thank you for the video ! I must say, they gave the FCUs quite a fair share of the footage - pity the RAF Regt. auxiliaries didn't rate a mention, for they gave up their spare time to serve just as the Squadrons and FCUs had done. Nice to see the Mk. IVs doing their stuff - the last aircraft I flew !


Smujsmith,

Yes, it brings back vividly the atmosphere of those days. The Auxiliary story ended, for all intents and purposes, in 1958. But the Squadrons had a short but memorable history from the thirties onwards until then. Mobilised for WW2, many of the Squadrons fought in the Battle of Britain; several of the top-scoring fighter pilots were Auxiliaries.

Post war the 22 (?) Auxiliary Sqdns made up half (I have also heard a third) of the fighter squadron strength of the RAF. They were not "chocolate soldiers", but reckoned to be as efficient as the Regulars of Fighter Command.

Cheers to you both,

Danny
 

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