With the expansion of the Army's air arm, it
became increasingly evident that there was an urgent need for
closer cooperation between its two independent elements, the Air
Corps (responsible for materiel and training functions) and the
Air Force Combat Command (responsible for operational
functions), formerly the GHQ Air Force. As a result, the Army
Air Forces was created on June 20, 1941 to provide a unity of
command over the Air Corps and AF Combat Command. Major General
H.H. Arnold was designated its chief.
By Dec. 1941, the AAF had grown to 354,000 men
(of whom 9,000 were pilots) as compared to 26,000 men (of whom
2,000 were pilots) in Sep. 1939. However, it had but 2,846
airplanes of which only 1,157 were considered suitable for
combat. The situation of April 1917 was being repeated--U.S.
flyers were soon to be called upon to combat enemy flyers having
superior weapons, either in quantity or quality, or both.
Primary Flying School
The Air Corps' pilot training program was accelerated at
such a incredible rate that civilian contractors were selected to
operate a large number of newly-established primary flying schools.
The basic (or secondary) and advanced flying schools
were operated by the Air Force. The civilian primary schools had been
started in 1939 by ten civilian contractors.
The civilian primary schools used Stearman, Ryan and
Fairchild trainers owned by the Army Air Force; their flight instructors
were civilian employees. Each cadet was given 60 hours of flight
training in nine weeks before moving on the basic flight school.
Primary Trainer Aircraft
Consolidated PT-1 "Trusty"
Stearman PT-13D "Kaydet"
Fairchild PT-19 "Cornell"
Ryan PT-22 "Recruit"
Fairchild PT-26 "Cornell"
Basic (Secondary) Flying School
During basic flight training, a cadet received
approximately 70 hours in the air during a nine week period. The basic
cadet made military pilots of those who had learned only the
fundamentals of flight in primary school. In addition to operating an
airplane of greater weight, horsepower, and speed such as the BT-9 or
BT-13, the cadet was taught how to fly at night, by instruments, in
formation, and on cross-country from one point to another. Also, for the
first time, he was operating a plane equipped with a two-way radio and a
two-pitch propeller. This was the point in his career where it was
decided whether he would go to single-engine or twin-engine advanced
Basic Trainer Aircraft (BT)
Vultee BT-13B "Valiant"
North American BT-14
Advanced Flying School
Advanced flying school was to prepare a cadet for the
kind of airplane he was to fly in combat, either single or multi-engine.
Those who went to single-engine school flew AT-6s for the first 70 hours
during a nine week period, learning aerial gunnery and combat maneuvers
and incresing their skills in navigation, formation, and instrument
Cadets assigned to twin-engine school (like Dick Baer)
received the same number of flying hours but did not practice combat
aerobatics or gunnery. Using the AT-9, AT-10, or AT-17, they directed
their efforts toward increasing their ability to fly on instruments, at
night, and in formation after first having mastered the art of flying a
plane having more than one engine.
North American AT-6 -
See T-6G "Texan"
Cessna AT-8 - See
Cessna UC-78B "Bobcat"
Beech AT-10 "Wichita"
Beech AT-11 "Kansan"
Cessna AT-17 - See
Cessna UC-78B "Bobcat"
The Cessna AT-8/UC-78, known affectionately as the "Bamboo Bomber"
because of its wooden construction, was well known as a multi-engine
trainer of WWII. Many bomber pilots saw training on this aircraft before
going off and training to fly B-17s or B-24s. After WWII, many UC-78s
became popular civilian aircraft and were used by some commuter
The successful completion of pilot training was a difficult as well
as a dangerous task. During the four-and-a-half year period of January
1941 - August 1945, there were 191,654 cadets who were awarded pilot
wings. However, there were also 132,993 who "washed out" or were killed
during training, a loss rate of approximately 40 percent due to
accidents, academic or physical problems, and other causes.
Those who graduated from flying school were usually assigned to
transition training in the type of plane they were to fly in combat.
Some were assigned to specific squadrons already scheduled for overseas
duty, while others were assigned to replacement training units for
subsequent assignment to squadrons already overseas. Regardless, it
required 2 months of additional training before a pilot was considered
ready for combat.
Duties and Responsibilities of
Below, an excerpt from the "Pilot Training Manual for
the B-17 Flying Fortress", issued to B-17 pilots during World War II:
The copilot is the executive officer --
your chief assistant, understudy, and strong right arm. He must be
familiar enough with every one of your duties -- both as pilot and as
airplane commander -- to be able to take over and act in your place at
- He must he able to fly the airplane under all conditions as well
as you would fly it yourself.
- He must he extremely proficient in engine operation, and know
instinctively what to do to keep the airplane flying smoothly even
though he is not handling the controls.
- He must have a thorough knowledge of cruising control data, and
know how to apply it at the proper time.
- He is also the engineering officer aboard the airplane, and
maintains a complete log of performance data.
- He must be a qualified instrument pilot.
- He must he able to fly good formation in any assigned position,
day or night.
- He must he qualified to navigate by day or at night by pilotage,
dead reckoning, and by use of radio aids.
- He must be proficient in the operation of all radio equipment
located in the pilot's compartment.
- In formation flying, he must be able to make engine adjustments
- He must be prepared to take over on instruments when the
formation is climbing through an overcast, thus enabling you to
watch the rest of the formation.
Always remember that the copilot is a fully trained, rated pilot just
like yourself. He is subordinate to you only by virtue of your position
as the airplane commander. The B-17 is a lot of airplane; more airplane
than any one pilot can handle alone over a long period of time.
Therefore, you have been provided with a second pilot who will share the
duties of flight operation.
Treat your copilot as a brother pilot. Remember that the more
proficient he is as a pilot, the more efficiently he will be able to
perform the duties of the vital post he holds as your second in command.
Be sure that he is allowed to do his share of the flying, in the
pilot's seat, on takeoffs, landings, and on instruments.
The importance of the copilot is eloquently testified to by airplane
commanders overseas. There have been many cases in which the pilot has
been disabled or killed in flight and the copilot has taken full command
of both airplane and crew, completed the mission, and returned safely to
the home base. Usually, the copilots who have distinguished themselves
under such conditions have been copilots who have been respected and
trained by the airplane commander as pilots.
Bear in mind that the pilot in the right-hand seat of your airplane
is preparing himself for an airplane commander's post too. Allow him
every chance to develop his ability and to profit by your experience.