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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 29th Jun 2013, 23:52
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Danny42C
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Danny says "I do".

My first thought after settling in at Shawbury was to get the woeful Vauxhall sorted out. For some reason that I cannot remember, I entrusted the task to a machine shop in Wolverhampton. This is about 30 miles away. Why would I do that ? - there would be plenty of other places far nearer which could do the job. I must have had a very strong recommendation from a reliable source.

Subsidiary question: how do I get back after dropping it off (and go to collect it)? Cross-country rail travel in the pre-Beeching era was much easier than today, but you'd need half a day for that journey. I think Witold must have stepped into the breach. He'd saved up his pennies to some effect, and bought (ie made a down payment on) an MG TF1500.

This model was the last in the long line of T-class "midgets" which had been unattainable objects of desire for every young man in the land since they appeared just before the War. It cost then about 230 new, (about the same as my Vauxhall); Singer then tried to undercut it with their Nine "Le Mans" roadster at 209, but I don't think with much success.

Witold owed me one, anyway. Before going out to Ehrwald, I'd bought a sort of golfing jacket which incorporated a thin lining of pure rubber between outer and inner sides. This (I reasoned), must be 100% wind and waterproof. It should be perfect in driving snow. Idiot ! So it was, but it was also impermeable. You sweated like a pig after five minutes' exertion, and if you want to know what exertion is like, try herring-boning 200 yards up a moderate snow slope

First time wearing, I ended like a wet rag. Witold was a keen motorcyclist, he thought it could be useful to him, I was glad to get rid of it. Now he assured me that it had proved very useful on the bike when his full kit of leathers was too warm in summer. There was not much roistering at Shawbury during the Course (and I was saving every penny for July anyway), but Witold and I went out to the Long Mynd to watch the gliders some weekends, and there was a motorbike "hill climb" circuit not far away, where there was much fun to be had, watching the competitors tumble off their trials bikes into glutinous churned-up mud when there was no more "poke" to be had half way up some near-vertical section.

As to the Course itself, I can remember almost nothing about. The RAF didn't AFAIK, have any Area Control representation in the national airways complex yet, so they were only training Local (Airfield) and Approach Controllers. Out at Sleap (a few miles north) they had the GCA school, with Chipmunks provided (and flown by) Marshalls of Cambridge (the same people who had taken over from us at Valley in '51): these aircraft flew out of Shawbury, as Sleap was closed.

The policy then was to turn out budding Local (Officer and F/Sgt) and Approach (Officer only) Controllers. After six months on units which had GCA, and demonstrating their Tower competency, both could be selected for the month long GCA Course, the Officers as "Talkdowns", the F/Sgts as "Radar Directors". Back at their Stations, the officers would alternate between Approach and the Radar Truck, the F/Sgts (and M/Ps ?) between Local and Radar Director. Corporals would be instructed in the vital task of Runway Controller, to keep an eye on things from their little red-and-white vans.

At the same time, of course, Shawbury would be training our Control Assistants. Curiously, I don't think the Assistants got any training there at all in what was arguably the most responsible job any Assistant could do - to act as the "Tracker" in the old MPN-1 Bendix Truck (but only in that type: all subsequent GCA sets needed no "Tracker", as the boffins had figured out how to put two time bases on one tube; "Talkdown" could now handle azimuth and Glide Path all by himself (no herself yet, or for years to come).

I collected the old Vauxhall. Everything had been done - rebore, crank ground, new valves, reconditioned clutch, brakes, exchange carb, distributor, dynamo, starter - the lot. Strangely, the IFS (exchange recon) wasn't done then. Don't know why, for we had to have it done on our honeymoon, but that was no problem as it was only a straight swap and was done in a morning at a local garage. The whole lot cost another 100.

"You're an idiot", said my classmates, "you've put the best part of 200 into that thing, and it's only worth about 80 now". But I had the last laugh. I put another 50,000 onto it with no trouble that I can remember, it served us faithfully for the first five years of our married life, and when we went to Germany I got 50 for it from a Nav stude at Thorney Island. It owed us nothing.

Of course we all easily got through the final exam.

I had a very busy weekend: then Iris and I married on the Monday, (Bob Schroder, still at RAF Thornaby, was my Best Man), and started on the 59-year-and-counting adventure of our lives together.

Off for our Honeymoon,

Danny42 C.


At last !

Last edited by Danny42C; 30th Jun 2013 at 15:15. Reason: Add Material.
 
Old 30th Jun 2013, 07:58
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Danny, I might be pre-empting the plot in which case please excuse the impetuousness and just put me on hold. It has always been a mystery to me why military aviation then seemed to prefer verbally based procedures, ie ACR7, GCA, QGH, etc, while civil aviation opted early on for instrument based ones, ILS, VOR, etc. Now I know that the earlier aids, NDB, BABS, even Radio Range, etc were utilised, as were later TACAN and ILS when finally installed at military airfields, but the period that you now describe and which I subsequently joined was dominated by ATC controller provided services. Was it simply that there were plenty of controllers but a limited amount of infrastructure?
Having said all that, the confidence in military controllers felt by crews was immense as a result. I remember a Polish ATCO at Colerne who gave excellent PPI only talkdowns that, no matter how close to minima was cloud base or vis, nor how gusty the cross wind or fierce the rain, the final "look ahead now and land visually or carry out the missed approach procedure" would see you in exactly the right position, laterally and vertically, to pick up the lights and land on that hill top.
Lights of course are another issue, usually the Calvert Approach Cross Bar type, but never Strobes for the UK military AFAIK. When we reactivated Fairford (ostensibly for two Hercules Squadrons, but really for Concord), the Thames Valley fog that it inhabited made autumn early morning arrivals problematic. By moving all the still serviceable ex-USAF Strobes onto the instrument runway approach lighting and installed to flash in sequence, the SATCO ensured that we picked up the Calvert system that would otherwise evade us. Good man that man!

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Old 30th Jun 2013, 18:22
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I got this thing up, now you get me down !

Chugalug,

It just so happens, that on one of my old Floppy Disks from my "Starwriter" "Jottings". I have a rather grandiloquent chapter entitled: "Some Interesting Air Accidents and Near Misses - not to be read by those of a nervous disposition who may be contemplating an Air Journey".

Among them I include "The Tale of the Heathrow Vulcan" (which you will well remember - about '56 ?). As this was written with a lay readership in mind, I put in a sort of "Idiot's Guide to ILS and GCA" to (hopefully) explain these.

With this in mind, I hope our readership will forgive the load of detail (much of which may be wrong anyway). I quote:

"What goes up, comes down. But what if it has to come down in bad weather ? There were three workable answers to that. One (our Grandfathers' solution) "No see, no fly" - stay on the ground ! Fair enough, our grandfathers were not daft. But if you have to fly, what then ? All sorts of ideas have been suggested, and many tried. But only two systems had stood the test of the times of which I write.

These were the Instrument Landing System (ILS) - which was a radio beam approach system and not a landing system at all, and the Ground Controlled Approach (GCA), which was a landing system (well, very nearly). This was radar based.

To start with, the ILS sent out radio signals from transmitters on the airfield. The pilot had a receiving instrument on his panel, and if he faithfully followed the indications on this, it led him to a point half a mile from the runway, pretty well lined up with it, and 150 ft up. It had to be a filthy day indeed not to be able to see enough airfield lights to get in from there.

Note the salient points. With ILS language was no problem, and the ground transmitter served one runway only. You couldn't move it around or take it away. GCA on the other hand needed nothing in the aircraft except a pair of ears, and (in the early days) its ground equipment was mobile. You could move it from airfield to airfield, and from one runway to another as needed. The ground operator ("Talkdown") watched the approaching aircraft on radar, and "talked him down" to a safe landing.

The "pros" and "cons" of the two systems dictated that civil airports would go for the ILS. People flew into them from the ends of the earth and, though in theory everyone in aviation should speak English, there was English and English. A GCA might not work too well with (say) a Nigerian pilot and a Chinese "talkdown". But with ILS, the instrument in the Flight Deck, and the procedures, were the same everywhere. It didn't matter what language you spoke. And who wanted to uproot the ground equipment and take it away, anyway ?

The military needs were the exact opposite. Squadrons in war are moving all over the place as battle dictates. Your system must move with them. GCA was really only safe with two people with the same (mother) tongue, and that was generally the case in military aviation. No extra radio was needed, and of course any aircraft could use GCA. It was the military system of choice.

But why would a civil pilot use it ? Using ILS all their lives, they were happy with it (possibly they had never used GCA since training, and maybe not even then). Why would a Captain in cloud, with several hundred lives in his charge, risk them on the say-so of some stranger with a radar set on the ground ? He'd sooner rely on himself. Stick with what you know !

That's really all I know about the business. I'm very pleased to hear of the excellent service you've had from my contemporaries, and particularly interested in the PPI approaches you mention. Linton '62 - '64 had a Cossor ACR-7C, a long-forgotten bit of kit, which only had a PPI tube. But (never having flown one myself) I can see how much an easier a procedure it would be for a pilot (paticularly the "step-down" method) than a full GCA - and no more dangerous if he could read an altimeter, and had QFE set on it !

'Ware incoming !

Danny
 
Old 30th Jun 2013, 21:11
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ACR7 Approaches

Danny,

As someone who flew from Linton in 1964 I did many approaches using the ACR7 there - including my IRT. We went to Holme on Spalding Moor or Leconfield to do GCA's.

Doing an ACR7 approach in dirty weather was a satisfying business but hardly relaxing. GCA on the other hand was much more reassuring and needed a lot less brain work.

ACW
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Old 30th Jun 2013, 21:32
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Danny, I think that you may have forgotten SBA, later TBA (Tuneable Beam approach) with outer, middle and inner markers and Morse "A"s and "N"s in your earphones which was certainly in use at many RAF airfields until the mid fifties. I did my first instrument rating test in a Harvard at Ternhill flying an SBA. OK for relatively slow moving aircraft but not for jets. I have a vague recollection of seeing a TBA in a Meteor but knew nobody who used it. The follow on from that was the co-location of the ndb and outer marker still around until relatively recently for non precision approaches to the runway.

I believe that SBA was developed from the radio range with its dots and dashes which could confuse pilots as after listening to that signal for a while you could convince yourself that a dot was a dash, hence the change to Morse A .- or N -. . Read "Fate is the Hunter" by Ernest Gann in which though it is years since I read the book, if my memory is correct he describes the problem.

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Old 30th Jun 2013, 23:46
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ACR7 Radar.

ACW418,

Our paths may have crossed (I left Linton about September of '64).

You are of course right - you were in the hot seat, and you know ! IIRC, we used two methods, the "Continous Descent" (with a height check every mile), and the "Step Down". This involved only two (?) steps down, from 1500 at 5 miles, to 900, he would hold you at that till you reached 3 miles, then tell you to descend to whatever MAA was in force. Or something like that, but memory fades. I can well imagine that the first method would be as hard work as hugging a glidepath in GCA, but I would have thought the second needed less brainwork.

The PPI was impressive. Of course it was a very narrow lobe radar, so you could be really accurate. It was the only gear wth which I've been able to see the runway lights ! And I still recall the lovely little square blip. The story was that it was first designed as an estuary radar, and of course all ships are (for practical purposes) in the same plane. The same thing went into towers as the ACR7D (Teesside Airport had one), but the 7C was a truck.

Please tell me, what a/c were Linton flying then ? (I've totally forgotten, although I can remember all the ones on my stations before and since !).......D.


26er,

I thought the SBA/TBA went out with the War ! It was as you describe it, I think the US was first in the field with their "Radio Range" (but we weren't equipped with it). It was the bane of our lives in the Link. Wasn't there a "Kicker" on the panel ? and what did it do ?......D.

Cheers to you both, Danny.
 
Old 1st Jul 2013, 07:04
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Perhaps another reason why the military preferred ground controlled approaches rather than pilot interpreted approaches such as ILS is that the former do not need any special equipment to be fitted to aircraft.

Civvy trash haulers and people-tubes could more readily afford the weight of localiser and glideslope receivers, plus their antenna systems, than could something like a Chipmunk or Provost.

We had the primitive Rebecca DME fitted to the Jet Provost Mk 3 and Mk 5; however, when this was removed and replaced by VOR/DME/ILS in the JP3A and JP5A, the weight of the aircraft increased by about 150 lb.

When it was a decent size, the RAF operated hundreds more aircraft than is the case today. Fitting them all with ILS would have cost a lot of money, whereas all they needed to fly PAR / SRA was a radio.

Regarding ACR7, it was still around in the early 1970s as I recall flying an ACR7 approach into RAF Andover as part of my PIFG on the Chipmunk at the end of my second year on the UAS.
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Old 1st Jul 2013, 08:01
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Thanks for the detailed reply, Danny. A common language was of course a big military plus compared to the Babel of worldwide civil aviation, and GCA as you say was movable from site to site whereas ILS was not. So combined with Beagle's equally valid point of the weight and cost of onboard equipment in those days and you can see some very compelling reasons why their Airships thought as they did. Thanks everyone for the input.
As to the Heathrow Vulcan, that tragedy has been covered on PPRuNe before, so I'd only add that VSOs and aircraft and weather are a bad mix, whether they be British, Polish or whatever. Stay at your desks, Sirs!
As to JPs and Rebecca, I remember them well and the boost in sales that Messrs Fablon got as a result for the transparent version of their product. Concentric Range Circles in different colours for different ground stations drawn onto a standard topo and then "sheeted" allowed you to mark off the intersection of range readouts as a chinagraphed position. Compared to the magic CRTs that Navs had to interpret it seemed to me to be an excellent system, but I was young and very easily impressed then, you understand.

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Old 1st Jul 2013, 08:29
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What's that about all lighthouses being switched off - surely not along the South Coast - Needles, etc. Surely not.
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Old 1st Jul 2013, 09:07
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Various methods of area and precision navigation aids lasted a surprisingly long time.

The oldest is sun and star shots. The world we know was explored and mapped on that system but try and get anybody to do it in a hurry now.


The original manmade one is the compass; that strange piece of magnetised material that points north all the time.

When one got close to the rocks in the dark then came the lighthouse. They are now predominately automatic but apparently all lighthouses in the world are scheduled to be switched off some time in the middle of this century.

Radio beacons or ADF. Still being used, will always be used though many are being removed from instrument procedures and airways.

SBA and TBA to my knowledge was in operation at Tern Hill in 1961 until it closed as an FTS.

Consol, a wartime aid invented by the Germans and improved on by the
Brits still had one station transmitting from Stavanger in the 80s.

Eureka/Rebecca. Certainly working on my Vampire in the early sixties and believe to have been working on JPs even later.

Decca. Many who did the factory visit would have travelled in the blacked out bus with a big map showing them which streets of London they were passing through. Then the plan of a pub car park would come into view; the bus would stop, out you would get and there you were. Used as a primary navaid in the North Sea helicopter industry until the nineties.

Omega. A long range version of Decca used in the less hospitable parts of the world so that you had an even bigger chance of getting lost than before. Dreadful piece of kit but poor people still use it.

VOR. This system won an unofficial competition with Decca to be selected as the standard aeronautical navigating system to try and stop civilian pilots from getting lost.

TACAN, A broadly similar system to try and stop military pilots from getting lost.

Area Radar approach (ACR 7) is still available at some civil airports but the controllers could be a bit rusty.

ILS. Easy to fly in good conditions but not easy, either manually or automatically, with a strong gusty crosswind. On a good day the ILS will guide you right on to the touchdown point on the runway. With the autopilot engage you could at one time sit back and watch the aircraft crash itself into the same point. Nowadays they have programs that go into automatic go-around or overshoot procedure which is what we more aged gentlemen used to call it.

I haven't cover Doppler or INAS as these are internal systems that will not tell you where you are unless you tell them where they are first.

Satellite Navigation. That is doing it all. I could sit back and do a position error check on my Satnav in China and the result would be inside the rotor disc. In Australia and the South Pacific I used it to navigate and carry out IFR approaches to some insignificant strip in the middle of the mountains. On one the base leg led you towards a wall of rock and turned you at less than a mile short. With the correct receiving capability it can be set up to navigate an aeroplane to any airfield in the world and land in on the runway completely automatically.

It would suggest that the advent of the completely automatic airliner is on the way and aircrew will be redundant on a pilotless aeroplane.

Then who do you blame if something goes wrong?

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Old 1st Jul 2013, 09:52
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WanderOO. The post you were referring to was posted inadvertently before it was finished.
I was on a lighthouse visit a year or so back and the guide told us that because of the cost of maintaining lights and the universal use of Satnav lighthouses were going to be made redundant internationally.

All at the same time.
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Old 1st Jul 2013, 10:33
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Well blow me - won't be able to stand on Milford (Hants) beach and watch the Needles lighthouse shining out - what is the world coming to?
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Old 1st Jul 2013, 13:55
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Man is not lost - much !

Fareastdriver,

Thank you for as comprehensive and far-reaching survey of the field as I've seen in many a long day ! Truly some of our kit lasted into a ripe old age, as you say. And my thanks to all the others who've added to my store of knowledge (out of which bits drop every day).

The Automatic Airliner idea was mooted about twenty years or more ago, as soon as Blind Landing became a possibility. An old joke of the time had it that the passengers on the first such (fictional) flight were greeted after take off with a recorded message over the PA. This laid extreme stress on the lengths to which systems had been duplicated and triplicated to remove any possibility ...possibility of failure ...possibility of failure ...possibility of failure...!
(Sorry if you've heard it before).

Racking my brains over Linton '62-'64, I now remember that as Fire Officer I had an old Vampire hulk to burn. Were they using those - or JPs ?


Chugalug,

There was a hidden ingredient in the Vulcan/LHR mix (or at least all Shawbury thought so). I intend to come to it later.

Cheers to all, Danny.

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Old 1st Jul 2013, 15:51
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Never having flown anything more than a paper aeroplane, I leave this link without making further comment but it tells you how anybody can land an Airbus:

James May interview and exclusive book extract - Telegraph
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Old 1st Jul 2013, 17:40
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Danny. I forgot about the BLEU. I should have remembered, I was with a group that had a poke around their Varsity at Thurleigh one day. Didn't get a trip, though.

I was on the last course to pass out at Oakington on Vampires. Several of the supporting flight were grim faced colleagues who had been on my Provost T1 course but had routed through Valley on the Vampire/Varsity route. The FTS there had moved en bloc to Oakington to make way for the Gnats so they were a month behind with their training. The back drop to the parade were two of our flight's Vampires. Unbeknown to us they had already had their engines removed and on the following Monday they were on the Fire Dump.

I went through RAF Regiment Catterick one day in the seventies. The practice fire dump there had a priceless collection of Sea Hawks with the Ace of Spades badge on the side. Six months later they were gone.

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Old 1st Jul 2013, 18:11
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Lighthouses

Had a lovely chart/map once of the south-west approaches which depicted a landward view off all the lighthouses. Was definitely an air force publication, probably wartime or late forties date. Can't remember where I discovered it, either Thorney map room or my late cousin Jim's possessions.
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Old 1st Jul 2013, 19:31
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Fareastdriver, In the early seventies BEA Super 1-11s were fitted with a device based on Decca called Harco which could be coupled to the autopilot. It had a "roller blind" display on which various routes were plotted. Pre flight you could install your selected route, and after several minutes of "thinking" it would display your start point. When it worked it was a definite help but after a while it became more trouble than it was worth, and the flat panel in the centre of the instrument display where the roller blind had been became a useful spot to clip letdown charts. As much of the S 1-11s work was on the IGS (Internal German Services) with most routes out of Berlin along the corridors mainly all covered by the same Decca chain it was useful. However it couldn't cope easily with a transition from one chain to another such that a flight from London to Berlin had a period half way across the North Sea where it all went haywire and the autopilot if left connected would have you flying a pattern B or somesuch. And cbs drove it wild. You could select "Harco left" or "right" and it would follow an offset track of about a mile to the side of the airway centreline.

Slow aircraft, helicopters and ships were its forte.
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Old 1st Jul 2013, 19:54
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Linton 1964

Danny,

Our paths must have crossed as I was at Linton from Jan to July in 1964 doing my AFT on 5 (Valley) Course using the Vampire T11. Callsign Victor 09.

The standard ACR7 procedure at the time was a radar lead in at 2000' and instructed to start descending at 6 1/2 miles. We let down at 300' per mile and the first check was at 6 miles and 1800' - I guess we let down too much for the first half mile!

Rebecca was fitted in JP3's, JP4's and Vampire T11's but was nearly useless as each ground station could only service 10 aircraft. You were supposed to get your distance and then revert to standby but if you were lucky enough to get in you hung on so you could use it again which blocked everyone else. The clear Fablon was great but I was caught out once at extreme range from a beacon. I had coloured the ring red and could not understand why this straight but slightly curved road did not appear. The perils of folding your map too small.

Wander00,

I shall be leading a group of dinghies from Keyhaven to Hordle Cliff tomorrow morning (subject to the wind not being as strong as forecast) and as such will be rounding the Hurst Lighthouse at about noon with the Needles Lighthouse in sight thereafter. We haven't heard anything about the lights being extinguished but who knows.

ACW
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Old 1st Jul 2013, 20:17
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26er. Don't remind me of the Decca roller map and keys. Grotesquely distorted at the extremes of their coverage. Frantically remembering whether you were on E 30 or E31 when changing maps and more than occasionally a continuous clatter as the cassette ran away and deposited yards of map all over the radios and cockpit floor.
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Old 2nd Jul 2013, 11:30
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Mixed Bag.

Reader123,

Thanks for the link. It sounds almost feasible, doesn't it ? (says he, only contact with Airbus as pax in steerage in a 320). What do other people think ? Wouldn't he need autoland ?


Fareastdriver,

My last month on RAF pay was at Catterick Garrison. In a boiler suit, on what was laughingly known as a Resettlement Course (House Maintenance).
Hilarious!

I was always sad to see what had been perfectly good aircraft put to the torch, but the firemen have to practise their skills. We tried merely to scorch ours to begin with, to keep the seat harness intact on the dummy, but of course, sooner or later a fire got away from us.

The wannabe rally drivers among the stude fraternity had designs on these harnesses: I had to threaten potential thieves with my firemen (they were big lads). I got my own back on them anyway, nearly got their Car Club hut condemned as a Fire Risk (well, it was, oil soaked wooden floor and Evidence of Smoking).


ACW418,

You remember far more of the ACR-7 than I do ! But I'm sure we did about 50% "stepdowns". And why would we ask you to lose 200 feet in half-a-mile (about 15 secs) to start with, when we could have you nicely settled at 1500 (like a GCA) and so not hot & bothered to begin with ? We must have been sadists.......(come to think of it).....

All those new-fangled things like Rebecca, Decca Navigator, TACAN (what was that ?), bits of Fablon (handy for patching rust holes in sills, quick spray, even quicker sale to unsuspecting stude - lad's got to learn sometime - only joking).

Never had any of 'em when I were a lad. Stick, rudder, throttle, fuel in the tank, wind in yer 'air, that's yer lot, chum.

Danny.
 

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