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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 17th Dec 2015, 22:51
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Leaf Springs

I have a 1936 Morris Eight. Parts are becoming hard to find...I wonder if it would be possible to make some leaf springs from old knives?
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Old 18th Dec 2015, 09:42
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That 'Compass Swing' piece:

Possibly all that meant was to fly on any approx. known heading when able to, just see if the compass agrees - which very crudely would show it wasn't a mile out.

That's all, IMHO.

mike hallam
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Old 18th Dec 2015, 13:40
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It is possible to do a compass swing in the air, involving many headings to various landmarks across a pinpoint. The Beaufighter procedure mentioned wasn't a compass swing, just an instruction in Pilot's Notes for the type:
Firing the 20mm guns causes disturbance of the P4 compass. It may be restored … by firing a one-second burst (about 10 rounds per gun) while flying level on compass North.
If this was not practical, perhaps because half the Luftwaffe was after you, the notes suggest the pilot uses headings passed from the observer's compass which was not affected.

Further to the sad story of the Australian Proctors, we had to scrap one of these shortly before we chopped the Messenger. I have since recalled conversations with our ARB Surveyor Mr. C. H. Taylor, whose main job in the war years had been as a de Havilland engineer responsible for keeping scores of Tiger Moths on the line each morning.

The problems with casein glue were well known and it was no surprise that the Proctor structures were delaminating as it was kept outside for some time in its history. I remarked that even modern glues could not be trusted as I had read of Mosquitos losing wings in the tropics but Mr. Taylor said there was no problem with the Mosquito adhesives. In fact de Havilland soon found the failures were due to manufacturing defects, but the 'tropics failure' story was allowed to stand in order to preserve morale.
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Old 18th Dec 2015, 17:32
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Airborne compass swings

My log book records that I flew several compass swing sorties during the period Feb-April 1946 while at Hmawbi (approx 40 miles north of Rangoon), accompanied by SNCOs of the then trade of 'Compass Swing Specialist (or whatever). I have no memory of how the procedure was actually carried out, other than that I complied with such requests from them as to heading etc to be flown.

Hmawbi, having a PSP runway and taxyways,would have been quite unsuitable for a ground swing, so perhaps this trade was established to deal with the problem; for sure, after our squadron moved to Hong Kong, I logged no further airborne swings.

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Old 18th Dec 2015, 19:52
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Jack has his first look at enemy territory
Post no. 12 from the memoirs of Tempest pilot Flt Lt Jack Stafford, DFC, RNZAF
THE FRENCH coast appeared as our Typhoons rose. I took a quick glance then swivelled my neck around, searching the sky above and behind Woe's rudder. We had almost reached the coastal sands when Woe called again: “Ninety degrees starboard, Red 2”.

We turned and started down the coast. At each port we swung in low over the roadstead and I would risk a quick glance at the shipping below and the harbour buildings, for it was all new to me. Then I would swiftly scan the sky that might hold half a dozen Fw190s looking for us, or the returning Spits. My pulse sped up at each new spot on the windshield or each new imagined shadow on the clouds. So we droned on towards Dieppe, intent on carrying out our instructions.

“Music aircraft, Kenway calling, are you receiving me, over?” “Music red one receiving you loud and clear”. “Return to base all Music aircraft, repeat return to base, Kenway out”. “Roger wilco out”, replied Woe. Then to me: “Spits must be home. Turning starboard 320 degrees”. Smoothly we turned around and started back across the cruel, indifferent, sullen, turbulent, all-devouring Channel that was the last resting place of so many warrior airmen. We flew back close to the clouds, ready to use them as refuge if a squadron of Huns appeared out of the mist with malice intended.

Woe watched his heading, I watched Woe's tail. His voice broke through the Typhoon's drone: “Turn on your IFF, Staff, England coming up”. I threw the Identification Friend or Foe switch, a necessity to protect us from our own flak and perhaps our own patrolling fighters. But there were no fighters in this weather, I thought.

The cloud base lowered and we crossed the English coast almost on the deck, slightly west of Brighton. Woe knew every inch of the coast, and soon we swung low over Chichester and the Tangmere runway came into sight. Echelon starboard, said Woe, and we roared along the downwind leg. We turned crosswind, lower undercarriage, green lights on. Flaps, and the Typhoon changed attitude. We approached at 130 mph, crossed the perimeter track, eased back on the sticks and dropped gently onto the runway like two feathers side by side.

Woe looked across at me and nodded; I felt that he was pleased. We kept a bit of throttle and sped down the runway towards our dispersal, slowing to walking pace as the ground crew came towards us and waved us into our parking places. As I shut down and wound back the hood the grinning mechanic was up on the wing to help me with the straps. Still smiling, he asked how my first op had gone. Grinning even wider, I replied: “Just great”. “Did you get a Hun?” he asked. “No such luck, I never even saw one”. He patted my shoulder. “You will”, he said. Woe was waiting for me and we walked together to our dispersal.“Good show, Staff”, he said, and I warmed at this unusual praise. I could not stop grinning.
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Old 18th Dec 2015, 20:04
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It ain't arf sharp, Mum.


It has occurred to me that my "full kit" of silver ornamented kukri and skinning knives in a scabbard might have been intended for the tourist traffic rather than serious use. As far as I remember, I bought it in some bazar around '43 for a (haggled down to) Rs20, which was good money at the time. I suppose that I'd been "done" (as you always were).

The idea was that it would help to cut our way through the jungle if we had to bale out and walk home. In 'op' attire, it rode on my R. hip (on the other side was the .38 S&W). Luckily the VV cockpit was enormous. Yes, I think a machete would have been a better idea, but anyway, as it happened, the need didn't arise.


PS: harrym, good to hear from you (when one of our 90+ brigade goes quiet, you worry a bit). D.
Old 18th Dec 2015, 20:36
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First Op.

Geriaviator (pp Jack Stafford DFC),

Another gripping, poetic, instalment !
...Still smiling, he asked how my first op had gone. Grinning even wider, I replied: “Just great”...
Yes, it is a great moment when you realise that you're some use to the Air Force at last, after all the long months of training !

Old 19th Dec 2015, 00:55
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Them were the days !

mikehallam (your #7903),

We used to line up on the runway for take-off, put its known magnetic heading on the Directional Gyro, and not bother about compasses or anything else. As our trips were never much more than an hour, it worked well enough (unless you threw it about a bit, and toppled the gyros, in which case you were back to square one).

In the same way, you zeroed the altimeter on the ground, and that was good enough locally until you got back. En route, of course, you'd work on the Regional QNH.

Life was simple in those days. Danny.
Old 19th Dec 2015, 05:14
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Old Comrades

54 OTU continued

(Simple technical stuff was for the young members of the family when I wrote this years ago).

At night, with never a glimmer of light from the blacked-out land, only the snow could be seen by moonlight. On overcast nights, sitting in the icy cockpit of a Blenheim was a weird experience which took a good deal of getting used to. The faint glimmer of the instrument panel had to be watched carefully the whole time one was flying. The artificial horizon showed a thin horizontal line, representing the aircraft's wings relative to the actual horizon (unseen). A turn to the left or right, and the instrument's wings dipped accordingly. A dive or a climb, and the wings dropped or lifted, showing the line of the "horizon" above or below the wings. Together with the air speed indicator and the rate of climb indicator, one had to watch closely to see that the aircraft was kept on an even keel, and behaved exactly as one wanted, without the benefit of being able to refer to the
ground for a sense of equilibrium.

The ground training now took on a very exciting aspect. We were let into the secrets of radar, which was in its infancy. We were constantly reminded of the importance of preserving secrecy, warned against careless and boastful talk, and were not even allowed to take notes during our lecture sessions.

Radar for night fighting consisted of an array of aerials mounted in the nose of the combat aircraft (not on our training craft) from which signals were despatched and received. Bouncing off anything in its path, it would reflect another aircraft within reasonable distance of the hunter. This reflection was transmitted as light signals (or "blips") into a pair of radar tubes, rather like very small TV sets, mounted in the navigator's cockpit midway down the fuselage. By reference to horizontal and vertical measuring scales imprinted on the faces of the tubes, the navigator could interpret height and distance from the hunter to the hunted aircraft. These were passed by intercom from the radar observer (RO) to the pilot.

By the use of mock-up sets in the hangars and lecture rooms, we were able to practise the technique of hunting and chasing enemy aircraft by night, after first being "vectored" from ground stations to within four or five miles of intruders. Meanwhile, we were taught all the other skills of flying - cross-country journeys, taking off and landing in almost complete darkness, relieved only by the last-minute switching on of flare paths and landing lights, keeping patrol station by flying between designated ground radar beacons which sent out ghostly wireless and radar signals to fix their positions.
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Old 19th Dec 2015, 07:40
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Stygian Gloom.

...(Simple technical stuff was for the young members of the family when I wrote this years ago)...
And a very good summary of the mysteries of A.I. (Airborne Interception), too. Today's pilots, cossetted with full runway and approach lighting, VASIs, ILS and GCA and (God save the mark !) Autoland, flying over towns and countryside lit up like Blackpool Tower, can have little idea of the horror of flying, on a moonless night, off a single row of goosenecks on an unlit field into a pitch-black nothingness - and then getting down on that field again !

As you say, the Artificial Horizon was your lifeline and you hung onto it like grim death. Tee Emm printed a very good poem of which I recall only scraps:
......................trying might and main,
Drift has changed with loss of height, round we go again.
Gremlins rap the perspex, thoughts come thick and fast -
Stick to the Sperry Panel, or your thoughts will be your last !...
The AH was the master instrument on that Panel, always in the place of honour (top centre), and in our day it could be "locked" in the level position by a "caging" knob below. This was a godsend if you'd "toppled" the gyro (IIRC, by a pitch change of 40° or a roll of 50°- or was it the other way round ?). Either way it was then useless, unless and until you'd regained level flight by using your Limited Panel (Airspeed and the "Turn and Bank" or "Needle and Ball" [UK or US to taste]: "Needle-ball-airspeed", our US Instructors hammered into us !) Then you could "cage" the AH gyro horizon line (reeling drunkenly all over the place) back level with this knob, unlock and "Halleluja !" you had an AH again (or not as the case might be !) This demonstrates why a pilot who loses control in extreme turbulence (in a thunderhead, say) is as good as dead (with all passengers) unless he is very lucky.

But there is a hidden, deadly danger in this Caging Knob. The practice was always to leave your cockpit with both gyro instruments (AH and the DI [Direction Indicator - a compass with no north-seeking ability....Irish, perhaps ?] "caged"). Indeed, failing to do so at my OTU attracted a fine. Of course, a pilot would never attempt to take off without first unlocking his gyros, would he ? We..ll, you'd think not. But it has been done on occasion. Of course by day, it doesn't matter, you have the real horizon in full view. But on a dark night, with little or no horizon (at sea, say....)

In 1943 a B-24, carrying Marshal Sikorski (Premier of Free Poland) took off from Gibraltar and went straight into the drink. No survivors. I have always believed that the pilot was using his AH after leaving the runway - but it was caged ! But what do I know ?

By now all pilots in our Crewroom are "spitting feathers" (you don't teach Grandmother how to suck eggs), but for the unfortunates who place their lives in our hands, this explanation may be of some interest. As you say Walter: "simple technical stuff for the young members of the family".

Cheers, Danny.
Old 19th Dec 2015, 08:09
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Inflight compass swing.

Not quite a full swing but in the 60s I was climbing through solid cloud at night in a JP when the aircraft was hit by lightning. No nasty reaction except both the gyro G4 and the E2 were clearly unreliable.

Continued up above cloud and called for advice. Nothing practical as all suggestions required sight of known landmarks. Then realised that the stars might provide an answer. Identified the north star (polaris), pointed the JP at it, set DG (Directional gyro option) on the G4 and synched the compass to 360.

Thought I was being a real Smart A*** - worked OK for the subsequent QGH on the dials. On the ground my smug attitude was rapidly deflated when the Flt Cdr asked why I had not added extra 7 degrees to the compass setting to allow for the then variation.

How are the mighty .....
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Old 19th Dec 2015, 08:38
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Instrument flying is in our family DNA, since I have had an IR since (about) 1969! Your admonition about flying over lit towns, etc, holds little for a Navy pilot used to flying over the unlit ocean for 4 hours at a time below 200ft in fog Then returning to a darkened ship, too.

Mind you, flying over much of Australia is above the GAFA with not much in the way of ground lighting.

Caged gyros are still around, although not so much these days. Going off on a tangent they are quite helpful when moving a skid equipped helicopter on a trolley since the lack of suspension can play havoc with a gyro unless it is either fully wound down, fully erect or caged. Since it can take 20 minutes to wind down most moves are made with the battery on and the gyro fully erect, but that does require a memory action by the pilot/engineer which can be forgotten.

Union Jack, I read your post about Hasenfus to Dad and tried a bit more research, but with little more than you found. Although Polish he was educated/lived in both Germany and Switzerland and Dad recalls vividly how unpleasant it was to listen to, let alone put up with, his extolling of the virtues of the way things were done 'so much better in Germany'. Quite odd for a Pole who was being trained to fly and fight against that very nation?!
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Old 19th Dec 2015, 10:47
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Man is Not Lost - much.

Fixed Cross (your #7912),
...Continued up above cloud and called for advice. Nothing practical as all suggestions required sight of known landmarks. Then realised that the stars might provide an answer...
Good God ! Was it for the likes of this lot of ATCOs that I laboured three long years with "chalk and talk" at the JATCS at Shawbury ?

It was "in the '60s" and you were in a JP (please tell me it wasn't Leeming !). Had they never heard of "No Compass, No Gyro Procedures ?" What an Approach Room full of buffoons ! Whoever was on the CADF at the time should have had his/her Certificate of Competency torn up before his/her eyes, and been drummed out. (And SATCO, too, for giving it to him/her in the first place).

All day, the "Sun's Azimuth" was the preferred method for ATC. * If you couldn't see the sun (unlikely in your case, as normally you'd be above cloud or could easily get there), then things were more difficult, but I've had success with (and we taught) the "two and one" method, and that works day and night. And every cub Scout can identify Polaris.
...worked OK for the subsequent QGH...
I should damn well think so ! - after you'd done the hard work for them !

Note * There is a DIY method: if you take that enormous knuckleduster off your left wrist and point the hour hand at the Sun, then half way between the hour hand and 12 is South (1 pm and South in "A" time). But Approach has the figures for Sun's Azimuth (for all daylight hours) in front of him/her (or should have).

Words fail me !

Old 19th Dec 2015, 11:38
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John (your #7913),

I didn't think of you people who Go Down to the Sea in Ships (not this child!), I'm afraid. (My hat is off to you!)

We were taught always to cage our gyros whenever we were going to do aerobatics (or, in our case, dives) and always when shutting down. This was to avoid damage to the rotor bearings, I was told. Knowing nothing of helicopter operation, I suppose that was the same problem.

When did the caging knobs disappear, and what did the aviators do then, poor things ?

Old 19th Dec 2015, 14:39
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Thank you for another succinct and excellent account. Were you given instrument training on the Link Trainer before you flew the Blenheim? Did you have red panel lighting in your 'icy' Blenheim cockpit or did you rely on the luminous paint on the instruments? As Danny says, we newbies in our comfy, easy-handling Pipers, with all sorts of electronics, can have little idea of what the WW2 novice had to cope with until the black boxes go wrong, of course
Interesting to hear you had ground simulators for radar training, I had not heard of these. Just another example of how fortunate we are to enjoy such descriptions from the men who were there.
Danny, I think the caging knobs disappeared in the 1960s, at least on civilian aircraft. Subsequent instruments seem to manage without them.

Gyro caging
Fifty years ago my instructor Desmond, who had flown Catalinas from Lough Erne in Northern Ireland, drilled me relentlessly on the importance of pre-flight checks and gyro caging/setting. As a grim lesson he explained that flying-boat gyros had to be caged until the last moment to avoid damage during movements on rough water. One departing patrol failed to uncage for the takeoff run and climbed into low cloud; under full power, the Catalina veered gently left and hit Magho mountain a mile or so away. The crew rest forever in St. John's Churchyard at nearby Irvinestown, and fragments of alloy can still be found near the summit of Magho.
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Old 19th Dec 2015, 14:55
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Fascinating stuff.

Re John Eacott's reference (7913) to the 'GAFA', anybody not know what that is?
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Old 19th Dec 2015, 15:08
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GAFA : Geographical reference.

Refers to the central area of the Australian continent..the Great Australian Fk All.

Had to look that one up myself!
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Old 19th Dec 2015, 15:42
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Danny said
Life was simple in those days. Danny.
I must say that was not the first thing that entered my mind when I saw these exam papers from 1941

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Old 19th Dec 2015, 21:56
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Although Polish he was educated/lived in both Germany and Switzerland and Dad recalls vividly how unpleasant it was to listen to, let alone put up with, his extolling of the virtues of the way things were done 'so much better in Germany'. Quite odd for a Pole who was being trained to fly and fight against that very nation?! - John Eacott

VMT for the update - extraordinary behaviour indeed in the circumstances, and I don't believe that he would have passed any realistic vetting procedure.

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Old 20th Dec 2015, 06:11
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I was very keen on the Link Trainer. I went to it whenever I was allowed and enjoyed "driving" that machine. Curiously, when I was settling down shortly afte the war, I became an "untrained" Link instructor at RAF Matching Green in Essex, and enjoyed myself completely with teaching and flying it myself.

The only 'gafa' I ever knew was the old gaffer sitting in the corner seat of the dear old English pub. I still miss the pubs, so now I'm a gaffer without one.
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