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Mil Pilot - Nature or Nurture?

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Mil Pilot - Nature or Nurture?

Old 14th Apr 2017, 18:33
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Mil Pilot - Nature or Nurture?

Good Evening,

Back in the day (1960's), my father was a FAA Fast Jet man who was Night Fighter/AWI/Carrier qualified.

Despite my unbounded enthusiasm and hopes, Biggin Hill was as far as I got.

In my 53 years, I have carried out a number of activities where the Cognitive part of my brain has definitely won or lost the day

Is it fair to say that those who end up with those wings on the sleeve have 'It'. If you 'haven't', then no matter how much you try, it just won't happen?.

All the best,

TN.

And much respect to those who do have 'It'. Still envious!
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Old 14th Apr 2017, 19:47
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Taranto.

I've often wondered the same thing but have no empirical evidence to support either argument. I'm a first generation pilot (FJ) so I guess I'll let you know if and when any of my offspring make the leap.

All I can say with certainty is that when I first saw Top Gun I knew I could do better.

BV
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Old 14th Apr 2017, 21:14
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I believe OASC (or it's equivalent) is more about cost control than recognizing steely eyed aviators. It provides a solid measure that training costs invested in a candidate will deliver a reasonable return of service in terms of operational service. That measure comprises a number of elements, including general aptitude, decision making, visual comprehension, hand-eye coordination etc. Recognizing and measuring those qualities over the years has allowed the training system to deliver viable candidates to operational flying within an acceptable time period i.e. as my Chipmunk instructor used to berate me "I could teach your Granny to fly if we had all day, but we've only got the next hour!".

Many unsuccessful candidates would likely have made good pilots if the system were provisioned to allow more time to train and strengthen weak areas, but it doesn't. Statistically we know the minimum hours training required to produce competent aircrew, and we know how to test for the commensurate level of aptitude to enter that training. Not having "the right stuff" on the day does not necessarily mean you never had "the right stuff" in you, only that you didn't have it when the test was administered.

Although somewhat contradicting my thesis here, when my particular service was short of pilots some years ago, they reappraised candidates who had "marginally" failed flying grading (13 hours on Chipmunks at the time) and allowed then to attend flying training. The result was, with very few exceptions, those re-selected subsequently failed to pass Basic Flying Training at quite a late stage of the training. This validated the role of flying grading but it was an expensive way to do so.
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Old 14th Apr 2017, 21:55
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I think the reply above is fair. I suspect the system just tried to choose the best. However, FJ Military flying is a complex skill set. IMO, you have to be able to do the flying fairly easily, it is the prioritisation and time / task management that is difficult.

OAP
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Old 14th Apr 2017, 22:51
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Whilst I agree with a lot that Twos in has said, I also wonder if the system ever considered the 'fear factor'? Young fledglings can sometimes be intimidated by the demi god sitting next to them in the cockpit and never get to show their potential. Fighter Pilot briefly showed a snap shot of a bollocking in the air and I knew how the poor bugger felt. It knocks the old enthusiasm out of you. Ok it was a long time ago, but Guy Gibson once took a number of Sergeant pilots up with a view to having one as his co pilot. He dismissed them all as useless, until he ended up with Dave Shannon. Shannon's view was that the Sergeants weren't useless, just that they were scared of Gibson.
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 00:51
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Salute!

As an instructor in three jets over 16 years or so, the competent pilots always seemed to me to be more nature than nurture. I also noticed this as a raw nugget when first starting out.

The naturals could hold speed within two knots and altitude within 25 feet on initial for the overhead pattern and be able to talk to the tower and look around within a flight or two. The nurtured folks had to dedicate most of their time to just fly the pattern. They usually wound up in heavies or washed out when things got more complicated later in the syllabus.

Not all of my attack/fighter students were "naturals", but they had abilities besides "good hands" that compensated. The biggest thing I noticed about "naturals" was if I asked "can you feel that", and they would say "yeah, what do I do?" The "technicians" had to be taught to "feel", and that is not real easy.

If you really want to be a pilot, then you have to keep on keeping on, and that part is an attitude, which many folks do not possess. A good instructor will exploit what's there naturally and help you to learn the fine points.

Gums philosophizes......
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 07:59
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No matter how well you go through training your career may well be subject to the military requirements.

On my course we had three choices on graduation.

Victors, Valiants or Vulcans.
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 09:27
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If you go back a couple of generations the aircraft were cheaper and lives also treated as such. I believe that in WWII the RAF lost more aircraft and aircrew during training than operations; and looking at the loss rate on early jets during the 50s and 60s the number of aircraft and pilots lost per Sqn per year makes you go white.

I presume as the price of aircraft rose and numbers shrank the reduced loss rate also indicates an increase in the selection and required standard of candidate. In other words your father was a steely eyed fighter man, but might not have had any more natural aptitude than yourself, or made the cut during selection today.
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 09:39
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Two's In, to add from a Nav perspective, one CNI was castigated for bending the rules and allowing more extra hours per marginal stude than was budgeted for. The problem was that lower calibre students were being passed up the training system, where costs increased, before being chopped.

For the 'granny' stude the protracted training slope could extend in to first combat and risk aircraft and lives should the student not be up to speed.

As an examiner I was once presented with an operational crew where the navigator was below average and the squadron hoped that we would have wielded the axe. In the event my boss refused to be the hatchet unit and left that to the squadron. I have no doubt that that crew would have been combat ineffective and blame the CO for not facing up to his responsibilities.

Back to nature-nurture, I believe looking at different branches is also revealing. Aircrew, I believe, appear as a body to be less risk averse than engineers. The difference is that aircrew control their own risk whereas engineers control risk of others. Does this risk appetite vary as each becomes more indoctrinated in their roles?
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 10:05
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We binned a pilot on his first operational tour in the Far East. His training records were a mash of ruruns and second chances but he was a uni graduate and as so was inviolate.

Less than six months and even he agreed it was time to ditch his wings and be an Educator.
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 11:11
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Originally Posted by ORAC View Post
If you go back a couple of generations the aircraft were cheaper and lives also treated as such. I believe that in WWII the RAF lost more aircraft and aircrew during training than operations; and looking at the loss rate on early jets during the 50s and 60s the number of aircraft and pilots lost per Sqn per year makes you go white.

I presume as the price of aircraft rose and numbers shrank the reduced loss rate also indicates an increase in the selection and required standard of candidate. In other words your father was a steely eyed fighter man, but might not have had any more natural aptitude than yourself, or made the cut during selection today.
I believe the RAF lost around 70,000 killed in WW2, with Bomber Command suffering 55,000 casualties, of which over 8,000 were in training accidents.
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 11:25
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Gums nails it
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 11:45
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rolling20,

I believe the 8K figure is just for Bomber command, and they attracted by far the operational loss rate. It omits those of Fighter, Ferry, Transport and Coastal commands, along with all the overseas commands.

I am not sure, but I believe it is also compiled from the dedicated bomber training units such as OTUs and not the basic flying training units in the UK, Canada etc.
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 11:49
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Originally Posted by ORAC View Post
If you go back a couple of generations the aircraft were cheaper and lives also treated as such. I believe that in WWII the RAF lost more aircraft and aircrew during training than operations; and looking at the loss rate on early jets during the 50s and 60s the number of aircraft and pilots lost per Sqn per year makes you go white.

I presume as the price of aircraft rose and numbers shrank the reduced loss rate also indicates an increase in the selection and required standard of candidate. In other words your father was a steely eyed fighter man, but might not have had any more natural aptitude than yourself, or made the cut during selection today.
Thankyou for your belief ORAC, but I fear I would have been the equivalent of the Granny mentioned. Having said, if I had aimed for Rotary all along, when it all got a bit much, I could have just stopped and a thought about it for a while!!

TN.
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 12:33
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Originally Posted by ORAC View Post
rolling20,

I believe the 8K figure is just for Bomber command, and they attracted by far the operational loss rate. It omits those of Fighter, Ferry, Transport and Coastal commands, along with all the overseas commands.

I am not sure, but I believe it is also compiled from the dedicated bomber training units such as OTUs and not the basic flying training units in the UK, Canada etc.
Orac that is correct, Bomber Command suffered the highest losses in training of any command. I haven't read Right of the Line for a long long time, but I use a quite here from the net, which isn't mine: John Terraine in The Right of the Line gives:

'From first to last, 1939-45, the Royal Air Force lost 70,253 officers, NCOs and airmen killed or missing on operations, the overwhelming majority of them being aircrew. This was the price of its victory, and of it by far the largest share fell to Bomber Command between Sept 1939 and May 1945: 47,268. This great number is the grim total of those lost on operations; it was the unique hazard of the airman's trade that a further 8,305 Bomber Command aircrew lost their lives in non-operational flying - training or accident. In addition, 1,570 ground crew (RAF and WAAF) were killed or lost their lives from other causes during that period, making a full total of 57,143.'. Although other Commands aren't mentioned, Bomber Command suffered the greatest loss in operations and training.

Last edited by rolling20; 15th Apr 2017 at 12:53.
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 12:55
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Some five years ago, I wrote on "Gaining a Pilot's Brevet in WWII":
..."
The first ten hours of military flying instruction are critical. This is where the sheep are sorted from the goats. In civil life, a flying club will keep on taking your money till the cows come home, irrespective of whether you're ever going to make a pilot. The [US] Army can't afford to do this, it's working to a timetable.

An average pupil will go solo after eight hours. Nine hours is stretching it. Ten, and your instructor will hand you over to a check pilot, who will take you up and assess your performance, and who may give you a second chance, with a different instructor. But this rarely happens. You're "washed out".

It sounds hard-hearted, and we think of late developers and helping lame dogs over stiles. But, as is pointed out, your dog is still lame after you've got him over the stile, and there are more stiles ahead. Better to chop him now.

The majority of these losses took place in the first ten days. After that they became progressively fewer. One of my room mates disappeared after a month, having absent-mindedly blundered through the circuit at our Relief Landing Ground. "Dangerous tendencies", they said, and he was out. Two others had fallen at the first hurdle, so now I had the room to myself.

The Arnold Scheme had a "washout" rate of around 50%, I believe. Whether this was due to the impossibly high standards [of the US Army Air Corps], or whether simple arithmetic had more to do with it, I have often wondered..."

Time is the currency of War !
 
Old 15th Apr 2017, 13:12
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Picking up on PN's last para in Post #9 regarding risk-aversion:

It was noticeable that younger ATCOs didn't seem to think too seriously about the risks they potentially imposed on their customers. The older ones entering the field felt the responsibility quite heavily, some to the point of severe loss of self-confidence.

I had a first-tourist who had changed Branch in her mid-30s: she was perfectly competent, but struggled initially with the responsibility she carried. We just jollied her along, and within a year or so (without warning) I started her on Supervisor training. She was horrified, the Training Team and I just smiled sweetly and carried on. She swam brilliantly at the deep end, and never looked back
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 13:26
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MPN, OTOH, one unit we had a mature, yet new ATCO, who on their first operational unit could not adapt the stress and became speechless.
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 13:33
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Originally Posted by Pontius Navigator View Post
MPN, OTOH, one unit we had a mature, yet new ATCO, who on their first operational unit could not adapt the stress and became speechless.
Not uncommon.
We had imposed a max ago of 34, IIRC, for entry into training. The 'not successful' rate had increased significantly for students over that age.
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 15:15
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Originally Posted by Fareastdriver View Post
No matter how well you go through training your career may well be subject to the military requirements.

On my course we had three choices on graduation.

Victors, Valiants or Vulcans.
Perhaps the course loading was deliberate, taking into account the OASC results.....
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