THEY LIVE DANGEROUSLY
AND FIND IT HUM-DRUM.
(By. Squadron-Leader S. K. S .Sum-
mers, R.A.A.F. Public Relations
There, ls a little ditty grown famous in the Air Force, through being sung through clenched, teeth, by R.A.A.F. flying instructors. It goes something
"What did you do in the war Daddy? How did you help us to win?"
"Circuits and bumps and turns, Laddie,
And how to get out of a spin." Then the flying instructor sings, with especial emphasis, and much ir- ritation:
"Woe and .alack and misery; me . ." Of course, this all my eye, and Betty Martin. If it were not so, there would be no excuse for this unashamed pane- gyric of all RAAF. flying - instructors. It appears >that there are "a : lot of F.L'swho, in Air Force parlance, "hive had it," This" is to say, they are '.browned off/! or fed up of "Circuits and bumps and turns,'Laddie,-and how .to get out of a spin." .And they are tearing their hair, and gnashing-their teeth, and doing all the. orthodox aero- batics of extreme annoyance. Why? Because they want , to get into opera- tion. WelL^who doesn't? .
THE FX SET-UP.
This is the F.L set-up, .
When the war broke out, Australia urgently needed a large number ol pilots, and the" obvious choice for uv structors were men who had shown, by their incomparable record in civil .aviation in this country, that thej were among the world's best and saf-
est fliers. That is 'to say, the civil airline pilots,- the- professional and amateur fliers who., .bad 'flown hun-
dreds, perhaps thousands of hours, a: captains or pilots of .airliners, as barn- stormers, or as civil flying instructors
. These were the blokes who knew all the answers. For the job in hand they were perfect material. It woulc have been sheer wickedness for th« authorities to have neglected them Naturally the authorities seized upoi such a golden chance and, one by one
roped them in.
It is to the credit of these men' o: experience that they . rallied- to thi nag and cheerfully forsook homes ant families, jobs and prospects.'and joinec the R.A.AJ?. as F.I*s. After threi years of war. many of them are stii flying Tiger Moths and other elempn tary types of training aircraft h which bank clerks and book-keepen jackeroos and journalists, shop, assist ants and . students, mechanics am merchants, are learning wby¡^an air craft flies, and where, and if.*
As the Empire Air--Scheme cami into being ind expanded-rnd it ha expanded beyond all peace-tim dreams-it became apparent that th limited number of "professional?- in structors was inadequate. . So Austra lia decided, as she was committed 1 the scheme, to impress thè services o the best trainees who; had passe through the hand of the proved F.I'i Thus, a flying instructor__ body"'- -wa built up. comprising- -mainly " tw classes-the civil flier of great ai wisdom, usually a man of compara tively mature years, and the best c the young, natural material which h had taught to fly.
IS A COMPLIMENT^ -
It was, in fact, a great complimeE to be chosen as a flying instructor,
said "it was" a compliment. 'It sti is a compliment, for the F.Ts..óf"tb R.A1A.F. are the most capable flyin men in this country, and among th
best in the world.
'Thus to-day, we1 have among tri F.I's. of the R.AJV.F. two broa classes of men: ? The. first are n
longer1. young¿ás;i¿^pmbat rflyJngí ag« %oI'r To^ây?.-modern warfare dimane that a fighter pilot^should be some thing less than 28 years. High spèè aircraft, tight turns at 300 mile? a hour, and altitudes .of 40,000-feet moi and more demand youth. The! youngsters have the physical resiliénc which permits them to suffer lei from the bio-chemical changes whic take place in the human frame ¡ these heights and in these condition
In combat to-day, life depends o such fractions of time, that a sp! second in prior recovery from a blacl out may mean the difference betwee the shooting down of an adversar, and being shot, down by him.
Thus, there are many F.I's. who; chance of realising their ambition-1 "get into 'ops'" is JorlonC-The-w¡ for them must continue- to- be "cireui and bumps and turns, Laddie,-ac how to get out of ...a ..spin/'.. I-hai talked with these -men, and I thu: they realise how slim their chane are of posting to combat flying. .
There are, however, others, bf ti second class, who are chafing at tl joystick. They are still young enoug some of them, to be utilised in oper tional work. Their tum will com they need never fear. The RAA.. is evolving a plan whereby a tour
instructional duty will be followed 1 a tour of operational duty:
I might add, too, that the B.AA. expects lauch of these F.I's.'.who a posted after experience in E.FX and SJF.T.S., to operations via Centr Flying School, and O.T.U. In' . tv years, a man can. learn much, in
flying training school-much " mo than he is likely to learn in ops.
For one thing, it often happen^ th a pupil pilot, ignorant and perha fearful, puts the-aircraft in which ! flies with his instructor into such u orthodox positions as'. the F.L wou himself never' even dream of doiï
Blissfully ignorant, the pupil, is, u aware of the tremendous strain whi the. aircraft has sustained. .Thè i structor, from the. cold sweav oh 1 brow, however, knows.-ill about rt not only the ; strain to. which;; the jt craft hasTbeeii- put; but also -fö wrE his tautened nerves >have beehviti jected- Thus, he learns .as .he teach and is" continually .perfecting 'his fl ing knowledge. "..".
One flying instructor told me tr. he was doubtful whether he h taught his pupils more 'than they h taught him. "I only taught them he to fly," he said. ."They taught i
how not to."
MANX" GOOD ONES MADE.
Some F.I*s. are bora, .but ma good ones are made. I<et me . tell y the story.here of the.tardy pupil w was taken lip for a.test by a senior : structor who had had adversé repa on- his progress. After take-off and series of circuits, during which M wise instructor talked of everythj except flyings to ease the pupil's ti sion, he said to him, "All right, 1« land." The pupil pushed the ni down, rushed at the flare'path; touch down.; with more determination" tri elegance or skill, did a slalom in a out of the light on the flare path, a eventually came hazardously to gra ful rest. - Beads of perspiration wi standing oh the pupil's brow, as. ,!. turned to , the, instructor. . and sa "Gosh, sir, that was terrible..*
"I didn't say so,? said the.F.I. thought you managed all right."
"Gosh," said the pupil "weren't > scared, sir ?'* .... , ....
"Scared," said the, F.L . '/No, it tal more than that to scare nie."- ..- '
"Gosh," said the pupil,;"I was.' There are lots ot stories like t that F J's. can tell you. There is. ( about the pupil who was pracUs spins (and how to get, out Of thi He needed most tuition in the lattt The-Tiger spun till the F.I. said, '
right/ kick out bf it." . But the "pui was slow on his reactions and wi he kicked out, he was just too h and the aircraft went into the. .vtrse spin.
The- earth, came rapidly closer, a the. Tiger was still spinning this, w then that. ^ , . ???
Looking apprehensively at the gri fields below, the F.L said meanin
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(as he thought), "Can't you hear those harps playing, young man?".
"No, said the "pupe," "I'm too damn busy trying to get out of this
Once upon a time (and this is not a fairy story) there was a pupil who had difficulty in landing at night. In fact he was positively dangerous, and as he had not improved one iota after two hours dual, during which the FX had to take over at each: landing to save the aircraft, it was decided to give him a final chance. The instruc- tor climbed in the front seat and to
save time told the pupil to take off while he strapped himself in. As usual the pupil was all over the sky and getting worse each minute.
"Look, old mari," said the F.L, by
now thoroughly fed-up, "I'll show you how you should do it. I'm taking
"Handing over," said the pupil with a sigh of relief.
The instructor placed his feet on the rudder and felt for the stick, but it wasn't there. It had been taken out for the previous solo and had not been replaced. To the everlasting credit of, the instructor, he didn't order the pupil to bale out and follow him, he merely said (with a catch in his throat), "I've changed my mind, you've had sufficient dual. Carry on yourself. I'm handing over." Gentle words of persuasion plus silent prayer and probably a slice of good luck brought the aircraft back to earth In the smoothest possible landing.
When the instructor told the pupil what bad happened it had a surprising effect. After two more circuits dual he went solo and these days is a very successful flying instructor.
The catch about instructing is that the instructor must never make mis- takes, while the pupil must make them, if he is to learn. If the pupil messes up a landing and bounces he must be allowed the maximum time consistent with the safety of the air- craft to recover. Only when that period has elapsed does the instructor
Let me tell you Just one more story of the perils of a flying instructor. As no doubt you know, it is the custom to stand the aircraft ninety degrees out of wind before take-off. For take- off it is taxied into wind. The un- sung hero of this tale put his aircraft out of wind behind a great hedge and as he fastened his straps, told his pupil to take off. Instead of turn- ing into the wind, the pupil barged straight at the hedge. The hole where he bit it can be seen to-day.
"What the hades . . ." said the in- structor, "did you think you could get off before you reached the hedge?"
The pupil's was the answer which turneth away wrath. "No sir," he said, "but I didn't like to argue with you."
From these tales, amusing only in retrospect, it will be seen that there is some affinity between the life of a flying instructor and that of a police- man-it is not a happy one. That is, not always. Probably, there is more unsolicited thrill per inch of the hum- drum of a flying instructor's life than in most others in the R.A.A.F. In a manner of speaking, he takes his life in his hands every time he ventures aloft with a drongo. It is not this that worries him. He would gladly offer his life if it would help his country. He would rather, it is true, be shot down by a Japanese than be crashed by a dumb pupil, but what he has he offers.
What worries him more than this is that he is the keeper of the safety of the pupil. On his quick reactions, depends the life of a lad who, one day, may prove to be one of Australia's ace fighter pilots. That life must be preserved at all costs by the F.I. until
the course ends.
There are men in the R.A.A.F. who have had as much as 4000 hours as flying instructors. Every 60 minutes of those 4000, hours has, been, an ad- venture. The strain is terrific. It is like walking a tight-rope stretched across a chasm 7000 feet deep. One false step, and instructor and pupil may crash together.
For the F J. instruction becomes a perpetual strain. It is all the time correctivé. The pupil must be per- mitted timé to see his error, arid try to rectify it under instruction. Only as a last resort docs the instructor in- terfere. The errors must be allowed
to persist until the pupil knows how he causes them, and how be can avoid them." It is nerve-racking Work. '
Night flying in thé gloom of the cockpit is the worst ordeal. It is simple, in some types of training air- craft, for the pupil to manipulate the undercart lever, instead of the lever which lowers the flaps. As any FX will tell you. there is no more certain way of spoiling a three-point landing than coming in with the "cart1. in the "up" position.
It is no wonder that at the end of a course, the F.I*s. nerves are wearing
What is a wonder ls that after the brief respite which follows the passing out of each course, he comes back to the fray ready for the worst and fult of hope for the best.
THERE IS A SILVER LINING.
This, of course, is the sad side of the picture. There is a silver lining. It goes something like this:
At the base of the edifice which is the Empire Air Tjairrihg Scheme stand the Flying^ Instructors. It is no ex- aggeration to say that they hold the key. No one will deny that air power will bring victory. No rhattér how many pilots we have, or how many combat aircraft, victory will not come unless we have, aualitative superiority in pilots, for in the last analysis, it is men who count, not machines.
That* was shown in the Battle for Britain, when the RAF.' fighter pilots, inferior in numbers, but superlatively trained, beat back the Luftwaffe, and made tie invasion of Britain imposs-
Had the pilots of the RAJF. been inferior to those of the Liiftwaffe, Britain would have been invaded, and, tn the then state of her unprepared- ness, perhaps overwhelmed. Thus th« iron heel of despotism would" have I been upon the necks not only of those
in the British Isles, but also of those who live so pleasantly and unrealistic1 allv in Australia.
The skill of the saviours of Britait in 1940 was the skill of the flying in- structors of the RAJ". Jn the pre-wai years. In the same way. the skill o: the. young pilots of the R-AJVT. is th« skill of the FJ/s who have been-work ing tirelessly in Australia for roon than three years.
IN FOREFRONT OF BATTLE.
They say they are hot in the battle but they are wrong: they are in thi very forefront of it Directly facht) them, with a grim challenge, stands ai opposite number in Germany. Ital; or Japan. The challenge , is, "YOu training against mine.''
Thus, every Australian püot turnei
out in Austrtlia must -be better thai every pilot , turned out in the Axi countries. If be is Better, with a shan of luck, he will shoot ' down th enemy: it he is Worse,' he may be she
down himself.. . : _
Every thinking FA, even in the dent! of his "brown-off,'* realises this, am that, is why he -works long hours, liv ing dangerously the while; so that n .can torn out,for.the R.A.AT. a bette oilot than e»n be turned out anywher in the world. , ~ ? -. '.
I started this story by quoting trot the FA's-lament. Let me quote' little more of it:
"But - sometimes we read in th a -?? ''napers " ",?-????'.?"
Of the de xis that old pupils hav ; .--'ídone,-' ?'? >/."' \ '-..
And we're proud to bava seen th
' .¡begíniünas ' ' -'
1. And havs shown them their wa
- 1 to the sun. . . "y
A pretty lament, I think?