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How the various groups in this important section of the Royal Air Force receive their training

PILOTS AWAITING INSTRUCTION outside the premises of the reserve and elementary flying training school of Phillips and Powis, at Reading Aerodrome. There are many such schools throughout the country and they have quarters in the towns where pilots of the Volunteer Reserve attend for lectures on evenings during the week. As many as fifteen instructors are kept busy at the Reading school where Hawk, Magister, Tiger Moth and Hart aircraft are used for training.

ALMOST as important to an air force as the personnel on the active list is the reserve of men on

which it can call in the event of war. A good reserve of pilots is a necessity. Casualties among engineers and other men of ground staffs would not be great because these men would be mostly stationed away from zones of active fighting, but the ranks of the pilots would need constant reinforcement. During prolonged hostilities there would be time to train fresh pilots. Meanwhile the reserve pilots would be needed to maintain the fighting strength of the first line.

All short-service officers and airmen of the Royal Air Force normally join the reserve after they have completed their term of service. Thus a reserve of qualified ground staff and pilots is provided. The policy of short-service commissions for pilots helps to provide a good reserve of fully-trained pilots. It is not considered, however, that the number thus provided would be sufficiently great. For this reason the pilot section of the R.A.F. Volunteer Reserve has been formed.

The R.A.F. Volunteer Reserve is open to men in civil life who are prepared to give part of their leisure time to being trained as pilots. The eligible age for candidates is between 18 and 25, but special consideration may be given in some instances to those above 25 years of age. For instance, special consideration would be given to the holder of a pilot’s “B” licence. Candidates must have had a good public or secondary school education approximately up to the standard required for the school certificate of the Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examination Board. Certain professions and occupations such as those of doctor, dental surgeon or fireman render a man ineligible. Those likely to go abroad for long periods are also barred. Candidates who seem suitable appear before a selection board and have to pass a strict medical examination. The medical examination is similar to that described in the chapter “Tests of Flying Fitness”. The period of service is five years, but Volunteer Reservists may be permitted to re-engage for further periods each not exceeding five years. They will not, however, be permitted to serve as pilots after having attained the age of 42. Except for a candidate who has obtained a certificate of proficiency for service in a University Air Squadron, all candidates are entered in the rank of sergeant. From time to time, however, a limited number of Volunteer Reservists will be selected for advancement to commissioned rank.

DISCUSSING DETAILS OF A FLIGHT before taking off in an advanced training type of aircraft

DISCUSSING DETAILS OF A FLIGHT before taking off in an advanced training type of aircraft. The aeroplane is a Hawker Hart Trainer to which Volunteer Reserve pilots graduate after they have completed a fifty-hours' flying course on an elementary trainer. After that, as far as possible, all their training is carried out on military types of aircraft, and some pilots do as much as 150 hours’ flying in a year.

It is unnecessary for candidates to have had any previous flying experience or flying training. Candidates may be discharged if it appears unlikely that they will make satisfactory pilots. All training is given at civil flying schools under contract with the Air Ministry, and at the town centres attached to the flying schools. There are many of these civil flying training schools in different parts of Great Britain. Some of the schools also carry out the elementary training of officers who are to be granted short-service commissions in the regular Air Force (see the chapter “Training RAF Pilots”). Facilities for flying training are available at the schools during weekdays, including the evenings and at weekends. Volunteer Reservists must from time to time satisfy examining officers of their progess in flying and ground instruction.

Generally Volunteer Reservists are required to attend at the flying training school on alternate weekends and at the town centre on two nights a week. Attendance at the flying training school may be made during the week instead of at weekends.

In addition to the weekend and evening training, volunteers are required to attend for fifteen days’ continuous training each year. When pilots have satisfactorily completed the course of instruction at the town centre and have attained the required standard of proficiency as pilots of elementary type aircraft, they become eligible for the retaining fee of £25 a year. To maintain his retaining fee, the volunteer has to attend for fifteen days’ continuous training each year and to complete at least 20 hours’ flying and such ground training as may be required. Those who do more flying than this stipulated minimum have the opportunity of advancing in their training to such items as formation flying.

Pay During Training

During continuous training periods pilots receive pay in addition to their retaining fee. This pay is 10s. 6d. a day during elementary training and 12s. 6d. a day after having qualified for the award of the flying badge. In addition there are allowances for accommodation, messing and travelling expenses.

Uniform is not normally required by Volunteer Reservists, and all equipment is provided. Parachutes are worn during all flying, and these are looked after by qualified men at the flying school. Should disability result from accidents during flying or in any way connected with the volunteer training, pensions may be paid in accordance with the degree of the disability. Members of the Volunteer Reserve are not debarred from joining the regular Air Force should they so desire. They must, however, satisfy all the normal requirements for entrants into the R.A.F. Service in the Volunteer Reserve does not necessarily enhance a candidate’s prospects of selection for the R.A.F.

As to the medical examination, although a high standard of physical fitness is required, the tests are not designed to ensure that only the fittest pilots will be accepted. At the same time it cannot be assumed that a first-class life from an assurance point of view will be found fit for flying.

Tests are carried out to estimate physical efficiency, which is of especial importance in the performance of duties at altitude.

A high standard of vision is required, although certain minor defects which do not necessitate the wearing of glasses when flying do not debar a candidate from acceptance. Visual acuity within the prescribed limits is not by itself sufficient and special tests are carried out to ensure that the eye muscles are capable of maintaining binocular vision.

REFUELLING A TIGER MOTH TRAINING AIRCRAFT at Gravesend Aerodrome, Kent, where one of the reserve training schools is situated. These schools are run by civil companies under contract with the Air Ministry. Generally the aircraft, therefore, bear civil registration letters The company has to supply a certain number of aircraft, but above this number the aeroplanes may be provided by the Air Ministry; the aeroplanes then carry normal Royal Air Force markings.

The busy scene at the Reading elementary and reserve flying training school of Phillips and Powis Aircraft illustrates the wide activity of the training of reserve pilots. On a fine afternoon it is normal to find half a dozen aeroplanes taxying on the aerodrome, taking off or landing. Others are lined up near the school building, either being refilled with petrol or waiting for pupils. All these aircraft are painted a bright yellow. This is to indicate that they are used for training purposes and to enable other pilots to recognize them in the air.

The aircraft are of different types, some monoplanes and some biplanes. The monoplanes are Miles Hawk and Magister aircraft, and the biplanes are De Havilland Tiger Moths and Hawker Harts. The Hawker Harts are used only by advanced pilots who have completed a fifty-hours’ flying course on an elementary type of trainer.

This fifty-hours’ flying course covers the same syllabus as the training received by pilots who are to enter the regular Air Force and who receive their elementary training at a civil flying school. With Volunteer Reserve pilots the course does not have to be completed in a stipulated time, because the time taken will depend to some extent on the time that the volunteer can spare for training. The groundwork covers subjects such as the maintenance of aircraft engines, gunnery, navigation, bombing and photography, and is carried out at the town centre.

Most pilots are ready for their first solo flight after about seven hours of dual instruction. If, however, a pupil is slow to learn, he may be given as much as eleven hours of dual instruction. Should his instructor even then not feel the pupil is ready to fly solo, the pupil may be given a further hour or two of instruction with another instructor. In special instances a pupil may be given still further dual instruction before he is regarded as unlikely to make a successful pilot. Generally,

if a pupil has not flown solo after thirteen hours of dual instruction he is discharged as unsuitable. This, however, is a comparatively rare occurrence.

As many as fifteen instructors are engaged in training reserve pilots and pilots for the regular Air Force at Reading. Normally, when a pupil is ready to go solo his instructor informs the chief instructor, who then takes the pupil for a final flight to check his flying and to pass him for the first solo flight.

Blackboard Records of Progress

One of the important departments of the flying school is the room in which is recorded all flying carried out by each pilot. Large blackboards are arranged round the walls of this room, and on them are chalked all the dual and solo flying of each pilot. The tests which he has to pass are also recorded as they are satisfactorily performed. After a pilot has made his first solo flight, he still has to receive a certain amount of dual instruction at regular periods.

On one small blackboard squares are marked in such a way that each represents an hour of flying. As each hour of solo flying is completed by a pupil, a square is filled in with blue chalk. Red chalk is used to mark in the dual instruction. It is thus possible to see at a glance the relative amounts of dual and solo flying carried out by the pilot. This method of marking up the flying shows immediately whether a pilot is requiring too much dual instruction for the amount of solo flying, and whether the dual instruction is received at correct intervals.

When the Volunteer Reserve pilot has completed his fifty hours’ flying course, which is approximately half solo flying, and has passed the necessary tests, he is transferred to Service types of aircraft. After a short period of dual instruction he will be ready to fly these machines solo. After that, as far as the number of Service types available will permit, the aim is for the pilot to do all his flying on these aircraft. There is no limit to the amount of flying which a Volunteer Reserve pilot may do in one year so long as his time in the air is usefully employed. Some Volunteer Reserve pilots may do as much as 150 hours’ flying in a year, some of which almost certainly has to be on elementary type of aircraft.

SIDE-BY-SIDE SEATING has been adopted in the Blackburn B2 trainers which are used at the reserve flying training school at Hanworth Aerodrome, near Feltham, Middlesex. Previous flying experience is not needed by those who join the Volunteer Reserve in the pilots section, the majority being trained from the beginning at reserve flying training schools. Pilots in the Regular Reserve and pilots in the Volunteer Reserve do their yearly training at the same schools.

The aircraft at a civil flying training school are generally marked with civil registration letters. Some, however, have the normal R.A.F. markings of red, white and blue circles. All Service type aeroplanes are supplied by the Air Ministry and all aircraft at the purely R.A.F.V.R. schools are supplied by the Air Ministry.

Pilots in the ordinary R.A.F. Reserve carry out their training at an elementary and reserve flying training school as well as pilots in the Volunteer Reserve. This yearly training is carried out in one period and is normally on Service types of aircraft. All pilots of the regular R.A.F. except those holding permanent commissions join the reserve for a number of years on completion of their period of active-list service. Short-service officers, for instance, are transferred to the reserve for an initial period of six years. This term may be extended at the discretion of the Air Council, with the officer’s consent, for further periods of not more than four years each.

There are four classes of pilots in the R.A.F. Reserve. Class A includes officers who have held short-service commissions in the regular Air Force; class AA comprises those who are given commissions in the reserve but who have no previous R.A.F. experience. Class E includes all airmen pilots who have been in the regular Air Force and class F includes airmen pilots without previous Air Force experience. After the formation of the R.A.F.V.R., however, entry into classes AA and F has been discontinued.

The training period for pilots in the R.A.F. Reserve is normally for a maximum of twenty days a year, during which a minimum of twenty hours’ flying training has to be completed. Members of the Volunteer Reserve may not be transferred to the R.A.F. Reserve.

Refresher Courses

An officer in Class A holds the same substantive rank as he held in the regular Air Force at the time of his transfer to the reserve. An officer in the reserve ranks junior to officers of the same rank on the active list. While on the reserve the officer is required to undergo such training, and to pass such tests, as may from time to time be prescribed. He is liable also to attend for medical examination, for duties in connexion with courts martial and the like, for service in aid of the civil-power, or for Air Force service until his services are no longer required. Reserve officers may be required to wear uniform when attending for training.

When there is satisfactory evidence of flying experience on suitable types of aircraft, pilots of the R.A.F. Reserve may be exempted from flying training during alternate years. Commercial pilots of multi-engined air liners would be likely to receive such exemption and instructors engaged at reserve flying training schools may be totally exempted from training except for an occasional instructors’ refresher course. A yearly retaining fee of £25 is paid to all pilots on the R.A.F. Reserve. In addition to this they receive full pay in accordance with their ranks during training periods.

All short-service officers and airmen, other than those who are pilots, normally join the R.A.F. Reserve on completion of their regular service, and may be required to do certain yearly training according to the trade or branch of the Service in which they served.

In addition to the reserves for pilots there are reserves for officers in the medical and equipment branches of the Volunteer Reserve. In these branches the age limits, medical tests and qualifications are quite different from those in the pilots’ branch of the Volunteer Reserve.

EXPLAINING THE INSTRUMENTS AND CONTROLS of a Hawker Hart to Volunteer Reserve pilots who have completed their elementary training on light aircraft. The training on elementary types is such that the pilots are able to fly solo on Harts after two orthree hours’ dual instruction. There is no limit to the number of hours’ flying which a Volunteer Reserve pilot may do in one year, provided it is al! of a nature which improves his knowledge of flying.

Normally the maximum age for the medical branch is 40, but special consideration may be given to candidates above this age who have special qualifications. Candidates are drawn from those qualified to practise medicine and surgery. Suitable candidates have to appear before a selection board and to pass a medical test to show their fitness to perform the duties required of them.

The initial period of service is for five years. This may be extended for further periods of five years. The normal rank given to medical officers is that of flying officer. After two years’ service the officer may be promoted to the rank of flight lieutenant. The general conditions of service are similar to those for officers in the flying branch.

In the first year medical officers must attend for training over eighteen working days. In succeeding years they may be called upon to carry out training over twelve working days. A retaining fee of £15 each year is paid, and a grant of £25 is given towards the cost of a uniform. Pay during training is equal to the pay appropriate to regular officers of the same rank.

The work of officers in the equipment branch of the Volunteer Reserve is concerned with the organization by which R.A.F. units are kept supplied with the wide range of equipment and supplies which they require. These include aircraft, armaments, mechanical transport, marine craft, wireless sets, cameras, spare parts of all kinds, petrol and oil, furniture and rations. Recruitment to this branch is at present limited to those who are able to attend in central London for training. The normal age limits are between 25 and 40. The chief qualification is that candidates must have had not less than five years’ business or industrial experience with one or more firms of standing. Generally, the rank of officers in the equipment branch is that of acting pilot officer for the first twelve months, after which they are graded as pilot officers.

Ex-Officers Emergency Reserve

Apart from attending for twelve working days’ continuous training, officers must attend lectures at R.A.F. centres during the evenings. Occasional visits to R.A.F. stations and equipment depots are arranged. Retaining fee and uniform allowance and general conditions of service are similar to those of officers in the medical branch. The initial period of service is for five years with opportunities for its extension on the completion of this period.

In 1938 a new grade of reserve was formed known as the R.A.F. Ex-Officers Emergency Reserve. The object of this reserve is to enrol former officers of the R.N.A.S., R.F.C. and R.A.F. who are competent to carry out many useful duties at home or in the field in connexion with the R.A.F. in the event of emergency.

Arrangements were made in 1938 for the expansion of the Volunteer Reserve at the end of 1938 and in the following year. Not only flying personnel but personnel of the other branches described were to be included. The training of a large number of men to make up the crews of aircraft was to be undertaken. This was to include air observers and wireless operators whose enrolment and training were to be arranged on similar lines to those of airmen pilots in the Volunteer Reserve.

A new Directorate of Volunteer Reserve Expansion has been formed to supervise the expansion of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Air Commodore C. W. H. Pulford has been appointed to take charge of this new Directorate.

In 1938 there were in operation some twenty-seven aerodrome centres of the Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School type for the training of flying personnel of the Volunteer Reserve. The extra training which will be involved by the extension to the reserve personnel calls for increases in the capacity of the existing schools and the setting up of many new schools.

NEW VOLUNTEER RESERVE PILOTS at Hanworth receiving general instructions before setting off for their first training flights. Flying clothing, including parachutes, which are always worn, is supplied for the use of pilots by the flying training school. Although the schools are commercial concerns, a high degree of discipline is maintained, and the pilots have to prove to the Royal Air Force examiners from time to time that they are making satisfactory progress.

You can read more on “Learning to Fly”, “Trainers of the RAF” and

“Training RAF Pilots” on this website.

The Royal Air Force Reserve