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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 18th Jul 2013, 15:00
  #4041 (permalink)  
Danny42C
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Don't you know there's a War on ? (WW2 'bon mot').

Blacksheep,

"A hit, a very palpable hit", Sir ! (How quickly we forget the moment the guns fall silent).

Having said that, if the scrap-iron were coming into my cockpit, I think thoughts of resetting my gyro would fade into the background for the time being.

But point well made, Sir !

Danny.
 
Old 18th Jul 2013, 21:32
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Danny
Now ATC was in business in a big way. For the first (post-war) time it really had something to offer the customers. Aircraft had always been able to get QDMs (homing Course to fly) from the old manual D/F sets, but it was a slow and cumbersome business with a high risk of error.
Sorry but not so!

As a RAF VHF/DF Operator for over eight years in the 1950’s I provided the bearings for many “QGH’s”. In the 1950’s in the RAF a ‘QGH’ was a request made by a pilot for a ‘Controlled Descent Through Cloud’ and the procedure was to home the aircraft to overhead the airfield with ‘Magnetic Bearings to Steer’ (QDMs).

Here is what I wrote earlier about this approach procedure (post no 219 above)

QGHs would be controlled by the air traffic controller, but on a couple of occasions I did it myself, which was probably against all the rules and regulations, but they worked.
Procedure: The pilot would give a ten-second transmission on the RT which would allow the DF operator to swing the DF aerial to find the ‘null’ on the transmission and by depressing the ‘sense’ plate (which put the aerials out of phase) determine that what was being shown on the DF wheel against the cursor was the correct bearing to the aircraft and it was not a reciprocal. When the sense plate was depressed the signal either when up or down, if it went up the bearing was wrong and the reciprocal was indicated, it was then a matter of swinging the aerial 180-degrees to find the ‘null’ again, go ten degrees either side of the ‘null’ point and depress the sense plate again, this time the signal should go down and if it did one had the correct bearing.
The circumference of the DF wheel was marked with two scales. Top scale showed true bearings from the VHF/DF (QTE’s) whilst the lower scale was marked in red and showed the magnetic course to steer to the airfield (QDMs). To home the aircraft to the airfield overhead for a QGH one read off the bearing shown on the bottom scale, passed it to the controller who in turn passed the magnetic course to steer to the airfield to the aircraft. Aircraft RT transmissions were given every minute or so (or less) with the DF operator taking the bearings. When the aircraft reached the overhead the aircraft’s transmissions sounded all mushy; confirmation that the aircraft was overhead was established by depressing the sense plate and if there was no increase or decrease in signal the aircraft was in fact overhead.
Having informed the controller that the aircraft had reached the overhead, the controller told the aircraft to steer an outbound course about fifteen or twenty degrees to the right of the reciprocal of the inbound runway heading and to descend to an agreed height, possibly 1000ft. The outbound track was flown I seem to recall for about two (or perhaps three minutes). At the end of the two minutes the aircraft was asked to do a rate one turn onto the inbound runway heading, which if all had gone well placed him very near the extended runway centre line at 1000ft. On the inbound leg DF bearings were taken which allowed the controller to check that the aircraft was steering the right course inbound. The controller also gave heights to descend to, so perhaps with one minute to fly to the airfield the aircraft would be at about 500ft and descending to the minimal obstacle height. Unless flying in exceptionally poor visibility the aircraft would see the approach lights and land.
This is all culled from methods last practiced by me over fifty years ago, so if there are any inaccuracies, blame it on age, but the principles are as I remember them.


As to CR/DF here is a photo I took of the ex-RN FV10 that was in use at RAF Bovingdon in 1956. This FV10 was situated off the airfield about a mile to the west and fed a remote display in Bovingdon's tower.

FWIW I have a photo somewhere of the Gilfillan GCA (AN-MPN4?) in use at Biggin Hill from 1953 - 1955.

PS. Photo of Biggin's GCA added below.


Last edited by Warmtoast; 18th Jul 2013 at 21:44.
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Old 19th Jul 2013, 00:29
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Direction Finding.

Warmtoast,

I reckon you've solved the RN "FV5" problem for me ! Clearly that would be an earlier version of the RN "FV10", and of course what you have in the picture is recognisably a CR(CA)/DF console, although much different from the RAF model I used (for a start, what on earth were all the knobs, taps, instruments and switches surrounding it ?) All I remember was a bigger (I think) CRT, the QDM/QTE selector switch and at the top a green light for QDM and a red one for QTE (and I suppose there was an on/off switch, which is where my technical knowledge ends).

Yes, your lower pic shows an AN-CPN-4. This was a huge leap forward, I worked them at Thorney Island and Geilenkirchen and IMHO, this (theoretically) mobile rig had nearly as good pictures as the later AR1/PAR combination which was "plumbed-in" to Approach from two separate radar heads on the airfield. I'll (hopefully) tell my tale of my time in them in a future Post.

Now, as to my "slow and cumbersome business with a high risk of error", I readily withdraw the "high risk of error" bit where such an obviously skilled and dedicated operator as youself was concerned. But they weren't all like that; many in my day were NS men, and the arrival of a CR/DF on a station would effectively put them out of business (as far as short-range working was concerned). The consequence was that they didn't get the practice necessary to keep on the top line, and not a few reciprocals were fed via the Controller to the aircraft and sometimes the Controller was to blame for that (said he with a guilty blush).

Your description of a "manual" QGH is absolutely correct, and when you had one Anson or Wellington on your plate every half-hour, it was perfectly adequate. But the High Level QGH was designed to cope with as many Bloggs as a Controller could handle at a time and (be fair) you'd be a bit pushed with four customers at once, wouldn't you ?- to say nothing of a Speecless No Compass No Gyro Double Flame out. Speed was of the essence, in a perfect case a Meteor could be brought from 16,000 ft overhead to "Over to Local" in 2½ minutes (which'll just about cover your outbound leg).

Questions spring up: what was the smaller building ? ILS Glide Path generator ? - no, that'd be at the other end of the runway from the Radar truck. CR(CA)/DF receiver ? - quite possibly. Someone will identify it for us. Fine figure of an LAC (?) - could it be you ? So what was stuck in the left side of your belt ?

All credit to you for stepping into the breach when (presumably) your Controller was too busy. But how would you stand if your chap ploughed in ? (not too well, I'd think. Your Controller would hang with you, but that's no consolation to you).

This is a perfect example of what this Thread is all about.

Cheers, Danny
 
Old 19th Jul 2013, 06:03
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Thanks Danny, after 55 years I've just realised what went wrong. We got a reciprocal!
Such was CRM in those days I was told to shut up when I ventured to say we were going backwards.
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Old 19th Jul 2013, 15:26
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Union Jack (your #4028, the PS),

Just twigged it ! (always was slow on the uptake). Night Owl, I'm afraid.

Warmtoast has given us the answer for the FV5s - it was the True Blue model of the CR/DF.....D,

Pom Pax,

We'd better re-phrase that as: "Retracing our steps" or "Going the Wrong Way", hadn't we ? (only thing I've ever seen "going backwards" - barring choppers - was a Tiger Moth in a gale - don't know how he ever got down).

Still, after 55 years, you are vindicated at last !........D.

Cheers, both,

Danny.
 
Old 19th Jul 2013, 16:31
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Danny, your forensic skill at dissecting and analysing the various titbits that I and others have thrown your way is both impressive and informative. For a start I had no idea that the caravans various that housed those assorted marks of GCA at UK Military Airfields were all from the USA. Given the balance of payments deficit and the fact that lease lend had all been returned to lender, that must have been an expensive asset. Was there no UK designed or licensed GCA version? Ironic that so much of the initial research and development had come from us, but on reflection a very familiar story, excellent lateral thinking but pants at the commercial money making aspect.

Warmtoast, your FV10 is indeed something wondrous to behold. They don't build them like that anymore do they? I'm sure that I've seen those handles at right and left somewhere else though. Was it on an A30?
The box like cabinet on the control panel has a whiff of where the keys are kept to launch missiles from SSBNs but will probably turn out to be something as mundane as the fuse box. Impressive nonetheless!
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Old 19th Jul 2013, 18:55
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Danny I accept "Retracing our steps", however at the end of a long day when in a rearward facing seat facing where you are supposed to be going, you are going backwards which also happened to be "Going the Wrong Way".
On a day when nothing seemed to be going right the next 20 minutes were very fraught.
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Old 19th Jul 2013, 20:53
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Danny is Put to the Test.

Chugalug,

I don't know whether the AR1/PAR was British (perhaps we'd got the hang of it at last). And there was a sort of poor mans' PPI on which we did a sort of Talkdown. This was the ACR-7, which came in two flavours, ACR-7C (Cossor) which was in a truck, and ACR-7D (Decca) built-in to the Tower. I had a 7C at Linton '62-'64. That was home-grown, I'm sure......D.

********

Pom Pax,

Silly of me ! Was thinking of you in right-hand Lesser Seat of Mighty up front, rashly offering your opinion to Him-who-must-be Obeyed ("Pax" now, of course - aren't we all ?) Backward-facing pilot ? Now I come to think about it, that could explain a lot !...as a story soon to be told will attest....D.

********

Now back to the battle. At every stage in the procedure, your opening question had to be: "Have you any further emergency ?" This was usually too good an opportunity for your pilot to miss. The second turn in your torturer's screw was "No Gyro" (ie No Compass, No Gyro). Now what will our poor ATC do ?

From memory, the obvious thing to do was to estabish your man's present heading by the previous method. Then all turns could be timed, by your stopwatch - or his Breitling - (this would be the timed-turn method seen by clicker (#4013 p.201). As we all know, a Rate 1 turn is 3º/sec, and all pilots can fly an exact Rate 1, can't they? So, in effect, you navigated for him by instructing him to turn (say) 20 secs left: he would turn 60º (more or less), you kept a running record of his putative new headings (in chinagraph on the desktop). The system should be near enough to bring him within sight of the airfield.

And then there was the cherry on the cake. At any stage in the procedure the pilot can "butt in" by giving "...." again. This was always bad news (it could be even worse, you could have another "speechless" on your plate, and would have to sort out "Speechless One" and "Speechless Two", but even the QFIs shrank from such cruelty to the dumb animal in Approach). What you got now was usually a "Double Flame-out".

You might think that a Speechless No Compass No Gyro Double Flame-out would be reasonably content with the mere sight of an airfield within reach when he broke out of "cloud". Not so, they wanted to pop out into the circuit able to have a stab at some runway or other straight away. They usually assumed a low cloudbase (1000 ft or so) for the purpose of the exercise.

Essentially, what you are aiming for is to get your man into a square-box pattern round the airfield, so that when he breaks cloud he'll be in the circuit with whatever height he had left to play with. So once you got him fairly close, it wasn't all that difficult . He must continue to fly S&L all the time unless you tell him to turn. Try to bring him through overhead, for then the reciprocal of his trace when he pops out gives you his accurate heading. Suppose it's 180º. Lock over your tube from QDM to QFE.

Turn him 90º left onto E, wait till the QTE comes round to 135º, turn 90º left again onto N, when trace comes to E, turn him onto W, and so on, each time "jumping" 90º ahead of him (and keeping him 180º ahead of his trace). Now he's in your "box", he must be very close.

All this describes an ideal situation, and ideal situations are thin on the ground. But I recall one occasion when the College CFI was "showing-off" his ATC to some two-star visitor. It happened to be me in the chair, but could have been anyone. He gave me the whole package.

By sheer good fortune it went off spectacularly well, they "broke cloud" at 2000 ft downwind for 09, it would have been child's play to "deadstick" on the runway-in-use. The visitor was much impressed, SATCO got a pat on the back. Naturally the QFIs only pulled these stunts when things were otherwise very quiet on the channel (and Bloggs was not allowed to at all, AFAIK) you couldn't be doing with them at 0900 in the morning, when the massed ranks of Bloggs needed your help to get home and fell on your head. But it all helped to pass the time.

The summer weeks passed, and one ot two curious things happened.

Goodnight, chaps.

Danny42C.


All's well that ends well.

Last edited by Danny42C; 21st Jul 2013 at 00:25. Reason: Typo.
 
Old 20th Jul 2013, 09:42
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Danny

Questions spring up: what was the smaller building ? ILS Glide Path generator ? - no, that'd be at the other end of the runway from the Radar truck. CR(CA)/DF receiver ? - quite possibly. Someone will identify it for us. Fine figure of an LAC (?) - could it be you ? So what was stuck in the left side of your belt ?
Small building was Biggin's CR/DF base unit. The remote display was in the tower - relatively new at the time. No ILS at Biggin then.

LAC was not me. Photo is a blow-up from photo I took of Biggin's Modelling Club display/ competition as seen here:


Last edited by Warmtoast; 20th Jul 2013 at 09:44.
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Old 20th Jul 2013, 12:34
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Danny,

Can I join the long list of Pruners to congratulate you on your fascinating historical blog, which is an essential read every time I log on. In particular I love your humorous descriptions, which remind me a lot of the great PG’s sublime style.

About CR/CA DF: was it not true that CRDF (Cathode Ray Direction Finding) was the initial version, used for VHF, while CADF (Commutated Antenna Direction Finding) was used for UHF? I’m not sure when UHF became the primary radio, but it was certainly in military jets in the early 60s when I trained.

I’m looking forward to hearing about your time at Leeming: I was there as a QFI 1967-70.
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Old 20th Jul 2013, 14:21
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exMudmover,

What was the meaning of that expression ("Mudmover")? It was after my time, now it seems to be in common use. Some kind of pilot, obviously.

Thank you for one more plaudit heaped upon my undeserving head ! (all gratefully received, of course ("PG" ? I'm not even in the same league !)

I was at Leeming late '67 to end '72, so we'll have lots to talk about. Must now have to edit projected Leeming Posts to exclude all unfavourable references to QFIs !

You've got it exactly right with CR/DF and CA/DF. Like you, I can't remember when UHF came in, and we swapped over the 4 (or 8) button selectors for the magical ARC-52s (but I'd finished flying by then).

D.
 
Old 20th Jul 2013, 16:00
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Danny,

The honourable art of “Mudmoving”, refers to Ground Attack (in Fighter-Bomber types). I quote from RAF Ground Attack Falklands which probably sums up the attitude of Fast Jet pilots during the Cold War :

"Since the first aggressive air-to-air engagements of WW1 the fighter pilot has been seen both popularly and professionally as the supreme exponent of military flying skill. The gallant deeds of the famous combat aces of both World Wars have always outshone those of the less well-known bomber pilots and other mundane toilers of the air, often unfairly dismissed as mere 'bus drivers' in their unglamorous and unwieldy craft. This attitude continued after WW2, the sordid business of (Fighter) Ground Attack being left to more old-fashioned aircraft, while the best pilots wanted to fly the latest and most potent Air Superiority fighters. If such pilots were required to carry out Ground Attack operations then it was done very much as a Secondary Task, a distraction from the more important business of shooting down other aeroplanes. After all, the only way you could become an 'Ace' (and impress the girls) was by shooting down enemy aircraft (No matter that they might be flying straight and level and totally unaware of the shooter’s presence) Merely clobbering ground troops and tanks was not the true way into the annals of aviation history."

As an American Air Superiority Fighter pilot once said:

“Those Ground Attack guys just move dirt around”

Hence we proudly adopted the title “Mudmovers”

Please don’t sanitise your comments on QFIs at Leeming! I was a stroppy young Herbert then and no doubt rubbed up some ATCOs quite severely at the time, because of my impatience and cockiness.

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Old 20th Jul 2013, 16:18
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Danny,

Can I back up Mudmovers request that you give the QFIs both barrels, so to speak. Whilst I have no claim to aircrew status, I do enjoy the banter and surely that's what it is. Fascinating reading the last few pages, I never realised how Air Traffic Control went from zero to hero through the rapid advance of technology. Keep it going sir, and the "lustier" the better, us old SNCOs love to read about our leaders and betters

Smudge
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Old 20th Jul 2013, 20:42
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Home on the Range

exMudmover,

At last I know ! I must have been a mudmover par excellence , as all my productive work during the war consisted of excavating huge lumps of Burma with the intention of sending any Jap troops ensconced therein to meet the ancestors. Trained in UK as a Spitfire pilot (what for?) ended up at this humble task (c'était la guerre).

Your: "(No matter that they might be flying straight and level and totally unaware of the shooter’s presence)". It's the only sure way. As they taught me at OTU: "You'll never see the plane that shoots you down !"

Joking apart, I take off my hat to all QFIs. (never having been one myself). Without the kindness and infinite patience of Mr Bob Greer all those years ago in Florida, I would never have earned the (rather motheaten) wings Mrs D. has tucked away somewhere......D.


Smudge,

Your: "our leaders and betters". "Leaders"? - questionable. "Betters"? - NEVER !

Long may our Virtual Crewroom in Cyberspace and the banter that goes with it flourish (...for never is heard / a discouraging word...) And all honour to our Moderators, for tolerating our shameless excursions off Thread !...D.

Cheers, both, Danny.
 
Old 20th Jul 2013, 21:15
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Danny,

How appropriate (home on the range), did you ever hear the alternate ending to that ditty ?

Home, Home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope stray
Where never is heard, a discouraging word
Cause what can an antelope say ?

I was taught that version by an ex Royal Canadian Air Force Flight Sergeant several years ago.

You could definately say your wartime flying career was at the very beginnings of mud moving. And whilst it is a "derogatory" term used by the modern fast jet jockey, to inflame the ire of the modern Ground attack pilot, I believe both have their place in the history of recent warfare. I doubt though that many modern day mud movers can have practised their art in such primitive or desperate circumstances as you did. I think the "mods" may well be very relaxed about the divergences and liberties taken on this thread, after all, it's the thread that keeps all our service histories tied together. Keep going Danny, and get Mrs D to dig out those wings, they are a unique record of your life and achievements.

As a certain science officer would say, "Live long and prosper" Danny

Best regards

Smudge
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Old 21st Jul 2013, 10:07
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There are those who believe that moving mud is the primary purpose of an Air Force. Indeed, Lord Trenchard was one of the first.
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Old 21st Jul 2013, 23:01
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Home on the Range,

Smudge,

Never heard that version, I have to admit ! (but then, we were out of the mainsteam in Europe for the whole of the war after '42). All sorts of things went on that we only got to hear about (sometimes much) later.

As to our circumstances when we were not actually mud-moving, we were only too aware of the luxury in which we were living, in comparison with the poor 14th Army devils in the jungles of Arakan and Assam.

A few days ago on TV, I watched a programme on the 81st (West African) Division in Burma in '44. It was sobering to see the footage of the conditions in which they had to live, never mind fight, in the battles round Maungdaw and Buthidaung (and of course, in the well known "Battle of the Admin Box").

We, on the other hand, had a roof over our heads, a bed of sorts and enough to eat, even if it was not always cordon bleu. You can always find someone worse off then yourself !

Danny.
 
Old 21st Jul 2013, 23:30
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Danny,

Never a truer word spoken. My father in law was an "hostilities only" airman of the airframe persuasion. He spent his war on 75 Squadron at Mepal. Stirlings initially and then Lancasters. Towards the end of the war he spent some time on 617 Squadron, I think at Woodhall Spa. He passed a few years ago, but I will never forget his pride at having done an air test with 617, locked in the bomb bay. It was my honour to give him a private look over PA474 when we did a big overhaul on it at Abingdon years ago. He, like many of his contempories, seemed to always be happy with his lot, and grateful that he had gone through that bloody war, contributed something, and survived. I suppose that many servicemen both current and ex will identify with your feeling of "better treatment" compared to less fortunate souls. I suspect that the myth of RAF people being better treated should remain exactly that, a myth. I believe all who took part were true exemplars for our nation. Anyway, as I age I digress more, back to reality and the origins of Air Traffic Control.

Smudge
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Old 22nd Jul 2013, 00:20
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Danny reviews ATC Manning '50-'70'

It is time to have a look at the people who manned ATC in those early post-war years. There was a widespread good-natured belief (often voiced) that the Branch had originally been set up as a sort of "Sunset Home" for all the good old has-beens and neverwozzers in the General Duties Branch. And indeed it did look that way. Every control tower in the land could fieldat least one full bomber crew (1945 style) if needed. Everybody (for the first few years) would have a row of ribbons, and 99% a brevet of some sort.

This had two wholly admirable consequences. First, the old wartime aircrew spirit lived on (as it had done at Valley and Thornaby), and that made for a pleasant, nostalgic working environment. And it made the Controllers instinctively able to empathise with Bloggs in his many trials and tribulations, in a way that no one without a flying background can possibly do.

This, of course, raises the hoary old question. Is it (a) necessary or (b) desirable for Air Traffic Controllers to have flying experience ? I would answer "No" and "Yes" respectively. In my time the MCA was recruiting (ex-RAF and civil) pilots and navigators up to the age of 35 with (I think) 500 hours logged; they also had a cadet entry from 18 or so, and as part of their Course their cadets were trained up to PPL (this was a considerable "perk" in its own right). So it was obvious what their opinion was.

When the RAF direct-entries for ATC (all SSCs AFAIK) started in the mid-sixties (because they were coming to the end of the old-timers), some of them had PPLs or considerable flying or gliding experience, and some were FTS "washouts" who had transferred into the Branch. But the majority were more or less straight from school. These readily absorbed the instruction at Shawbury and quickly became technically proficient, but I always thought that it would have been better if the RAF had been able to give them even a few hours' flying instruction just to "see how the other half of the world lives".

It is all too easy to become impatient, or even exasperated with Bloggs when he's ignoring your instructions and generally giving you a hard time, but you must bite your tongue. "Petulance is the pilot's prerogative", my old SATCO used to say, and it's much easier to remember when you've "been there" yourself.

Cadging the odd flight is fine, all experience is valuable, but one idea I used to recommend for the new boys and girls was to spend some time in the simulator, if your station has one and the instructor will play, and get him to show you round the cockpit and "have a go" at some simple exercises. It isn't easy, struggling with an aircraft going every which way, your QFI bellowing at you and this extra disembodied voice nagging you to do something else as well. Something has to give !

As for the Local Controllers, it was remarkable how many of them there were whose only sight of their airfield (apart from that from the Tower) was the daily morning runway in-use check in the ATC Landrover. Why not, when the field is not active, borrow a bike and ride right round and have a good look ? (you can't see much detail from a car, walking would take far too long - and it's tiring, it's easy to hop off a bike).

"The finest manure is the farmer's footstep" Anything you see that you don't recognise, or can't understand, or you think is wrong, take a note and ask about it when you get back (it's remarkable what you can find). One of the young gentlemen to whom I remember giving these sage advices finished (so I learned recently) as a Wing Commander, the Chief Instructor at the ATC School at Shawbury, so perhaps they may have borne fruit in later years.

Back to Strubby again next time.

Bedtime now. Goodnight, chaps,

Danny42C.


"According to a Scientist
The Bumble Bee should not Exist
Because his Weight exceeds his Lift
I'm glad I'm not a Scientist"........

(Pinched from Saturday's D.T. "Letters to Editor" - very old chestnut but neatly put, don't you think ?)

Last edited by Danny42C; 22nd Jul 2013 at 00:26. Reason: Spacing.
 
Old 22nd Jul 2013, 07:45
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Danny. Putting on my boffin's hat, "the flight of the bumble bee" is understood. From memory, the wing action approximates a horizontal figure-of-eight (an infinity sign if you wish). Bumble bees get lift from each forward and aft stroke. Thus demonstrating that bumble bees are much cleverer than boffins.
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