Results 1 to 7 of 7

Thread: Pilot's total time aboard Lancaster on ops

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    163
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default Pilot's total time aboard Lancaster on ops

    I have a Lancaster pilot who completed a 30 op tour late in WW2.
    His average flight-time per op was 7 hours 2 minutes; the longest op was slightly under 10 hours, the shortest just over 3 hours.
    These figures do not include 2 aborts/recalls that amounted to approximately 4 hours in the air.

    Watching the documentary "Night Bombers 1943" I took note of the pilot in the cockpit while starting the engines then the line of bombers inching their way along the tarmac while taxiing toward their turn for takeoff. That got me wondering just how much time did a pilot on ops spend, in total, aboard the Lancaster from the time he boarded the aircraft until he landed, taxied in, shut it down, exited the 'plane, and set his feet back on the ground.

    At the beginning of his tour the pilot in question was sometimes last to take off and near the end of his tour he sometimes was first to take off.
    At times his aircraft had a longer distance to taxi and at other times the taxi-time was less.

    In addition to the official Operational Flying Time recorded in the ORB, does anyone on the forum have suggestions on an average total time a Lancaster pilot on ops would spend aboard the aircraft?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Posts
    1,035
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 7 Times in 7 Posts

    Default

    Grounded.
    Unless the pilot in question kept a very detailed diary, you are unlikely to get any real hard answers to your question, but in my estimation there might be about half to three quarters of an hour between crew boarding aircraft, and actual take off, perhaps a little more if you had to taxi further, or there was another aircraft blocking the taxiway which had to be cleared. Although the comfort and state of boredom of crews due to delays between boarding and take off was not the top priority of those officers planning each operation, neither can I see them wanting crews sitting in aircraft for no good reason for any sort of extended period, and these procedures would be the result of several years of 'fine tuning' by this stage of the war. When you might have up to 40 or 50 heavy aircraft, each with four engines running, standing for extended periods without moving would be studiously avoided I would have thought. So I would think that 30 - 45 minutes, including equipment checks and warming up of engines, and oil, would normally suffice. Of course all other crew members were also responsible for their own equipment, etc. I don't think that the crew sat around in the aircraft for very long after landing either - they would just be pleased to get out of the aircraft and away from the confinement and thundering noise of the flight, and have a good stretch and breathe in the fresh air again after cheating death one more time. Remember also that all such heavy aircraft, if on night operations, would also have completed a night flying test earlier in day (possibly half an hour?), flown by same crew as would be taking it up that night, then only fairly prefunctory checks would require to be carried out prior to the operational flight, but even these latter checks would occupy some time. Read the pilots' and flight engineers' notes for a Lancaster to get an idea. If these were day missions, it is possible that the night flying test, or in fact any pre-operations test might not be required.
    David D

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    163
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    David
    Thanks for that.
    Do you know if the entire crew boarded the Lancaster at the same time?
    Did the crew board according to an established order according to position or rank?
    Or, did some of the crew wait while the pilot warmed up the engines, etc. before boarding?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Posts
    1,035
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 7 Times in 7 Posts

    Default

    Grounded,
    Now we are getting down to the real nitty gritty! As to the etiquette of boarding a bomber, I am afraid you have me there sir! There probably was some sort of protocol for this, with perhaps captain first aboard (possible also common sense, too, as aircraft such as Lancaster were very narrow inside, and with crew members dressed in fairly bulky clothing), so it would seem likely that they would enter through rear door more-or-less in order of their physical positions in aircraft, with fore-most perhaps entering first (air bomber), then pilot, flight engineer, nav, W/Opr, and the two gunners, but this is just a guess. Would save falling over or squeezing past one another within the confines of fuselage - each would also be carrying much equipment aboard, including their own parachutes, so space was at a premium. I doubt that rank would have a lot to do with it, but the captain was always to be respectd. I think that all crew would enter aircraft together, as they would arrive together by vehicle (truck) from final briefing, and all would have a certain amount of checking equipment, etc, as soon as they were aboard, as well as other routine duties. Again the pilots' and flight engineers' notes may help visualise this, although these are only two of the crew. However I am fairly certain that by the time of engine starting, all members would be well and truly in their seats. Perhaps some of those wartime films would give some hints as to what was expected of each member of crew. Afraid I was born far too late to give any real information on this rather interesting subject - I was brought up in the days of the war comic (1950s/60s), so perhaps I picked up something from them. I doubt I would have got into aircrew even had I been born 30 years earlier, and knowing what I know now, wouldn't have volunteered for that service anyway!
    David D

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Posts
    271
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Hi

    George "Johnny" Johnson s new book, "The Last British Dambuster" has an excellent description of boarding a Lancaster, which I guess answers most of the questions.
    Simply, yes its all down to getting past other crew. Johnny rode up front for take off, he admits for the sheer fun of it, although not everybody did as it wasn' t the safest place to be in a crash. If the Flight Engineer was already up front then access to the bomb aimers position was very difficult. You'd also have to squeeze past the mid upper, radio op and navigator stations, none of which were wide.

    As to taxi time, I am aware that many of the ex military people I worked with in civil aviation found the logging of taxi time a little odd. Certainly until fairly recently they did not log such time, but merely recorded the Flying Time. Is this still the case? Modern civil aircraft have flightime recorders actuated by the Park brake so maybe modern RAF types do as well.
    Why? Well I guess its because total flying time goes towards higher licences etc. Sitting in a queue at Heathrow for 45 minutes, apart from concern at how much fuel you're using doesn't really teach you much and so shouldn't count for flying experience.

    Look at the column titles in ORB s and so on. "Time up" and "Time Down" means exactly that.

    cheers Peter

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    SW Wiltshire
    Posts
    236
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Grounded, David, There was an Air Ministry instruction in October 1943 that provides part of the answer. It gives the requirement for crews to be at the aircraft at least an hour before operational start-up. Pilot and F/E were to do run-ups and the crew to complete full NFT checks. There was then time in hand for ground crew to rectify small faults. The pilot and the F/E had a full set of external and internal checks to complete before they settled down in the cockpit, so the rest of the crew would board before them and stow their parachutes. helmets etc. If there were no problems, then the crew could disembark until time for operational start-up. They could start up and move off quickly second time round as everything was warmed up and checked.

    HTH,

    Richard

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    163
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Thanks for the info and insights.
    I'll look for a copy of the book, "The Last British Dambuster" by George "Johnny" Johnson.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •