Training Air Pilots
|By Lieut. H. Earl Munz
During the war the training for prospective pilots in the Air Service
divided into three periods: Ground School, Mobilization, and
The length of the course varied from four to ten months. Among the
Ground schools were Ithaca, Princeton, Boston, Columbus, Champagne,
Berkeley and Austin. At the time of the writer's Ground School training
the prescribed course was eight weeks. Later it was extended to twelve.
Final examinations were held in infantry drill regulations,
courts-martial, army regulations, army paper work, motors, airplanes,
meteorology, instruments and compasses, map-reading, modern warfare,
aerodynamics, wireless sending and receiving, installation and
fundamental principles of radio, etc. A concentrated, comprehensive
knowledge of all these subjects was required and obtained. Many men
could not stand the work or retain their quickly acquired knowledge, and
they fell by the wayside. A list posted every Saturday told the story of
success or failure.
At Camp Dick, Dallas, Texas, constant drilling, reviewing, studying,
hiking and preparing for inspections was the day's work. Any sin against
discipline or order was usually paid for by a hike of 25 miles over
Texas roads, under a Texas sun. The Dallas people were wonderful in
their hospitality. Nothing seemed to be too good for a cadet. The
beautiful Dallas Country Club was always open for Camp Dick's men.
One morning at about two o'clock 25 cadets, of whom the writer was one,
got off the train at Wichita Falls, Texas, and were piled into two motor
trucks. They wondered what Call Field would be like. Their experience
did not lessen their wonderment, for, as they started to pile out at
reveille, a friendly "non-com." yelled: "You men better
not turn out for reveille; you haven't had much sleep. Breakfast will be
served at ten o'clock!" However, future events showed that the life
was not entirely a path of roses.
The first flight was rather disappointing. The only sensation was that
of nosing swiftly downward. It was the same feeling that is experienced
in an express elevator, only more so. The first real thrill came after
the cadet was "turned loose." He had had from two to ten hours
in the air with an instructor, and was now considered able to try it
alone. Somehow he got the ship into the air and returned to the field.
He breathed a big sigh of relief when the ship again rested on terra
firma; the ordeal was over and he was now on the way to earn the coveted
double wings of the pilot. There were six stages to pass through before
these wings and the commission were forthcoming: the dual stage,
accompanied by an instructor; the first solo stage, where the cadet
learns to land accurately; the R.M.A. stage, in which he learns spirals,
side-slips, cross-wind take-offs and landings; the formation stage where
he learns to know every movement of his ship and becomes able to control
its flight with greater dexterity; the cross-
country stage, which consists of long trips and side-slipping into small
fields; and, finally, the stunt stage, in which he learns the Immelman
turn, loops, tail-spin, falling leaf, reversements and vrilles. When all
have been passed successfully the cadet is commissioned a Second
The lieutenant is now a pilot in the sense that he can fly, but much
and interesting work is ahead of him before he becomes a real aviator.
For the finishing touches he is sent to an advanced flying school. There
are three kinds of pilots: pursuit pilots, bombers, and Army Corps
pilots. The writer was sent to the Pursuit School at Rockwell Field, San
The writer's greatest sensation in his flying career was experienced
above the clouds in Southern California. It was a dark, gloomy, misty
day on the ground and he almost gave up the idea of flying. But, acting
on a "hunch,"
he took off in the rain. A heavy layer of dark clouds hung about fifteen
hundred feet from the ground. The ship dove into the layer and climbed
up through the cold damp mass for about ten minutes. Suddenly, a
dazzling brightness was apparent as the ship rose out of the mass. There
was not a cloud to hide the blue sky above and the sun smiled down on
the cloud bank below, making it appear like heaped-up snow mixed with
rainbows. Not a living thing was in sight. It was as though the ship
were alone in space, except that a few miles away two snowy mountain
peaks lifted themselves through the clouds. It was with deep regret that
the pilot left this scene to drop down into the commonplace world again.
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