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Thread: Pilot Grades in Training

  1. #1
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    Default Pilot Grades in Training

    I wonder if anyone can explain pilot grading categories for me?

    I have an RAAF Service Record for an Air Observer who began training as a pilot. This was as 'Aircrew V (Pilot)', which changed to 'Aircrew II (pilot) just before he left EFTS. He didn't make the grade and was remustered as an Air Observer, noted on his service record as 'Aircrew II (Observer)'. After qualification he's listed as 'Air Observer' and then later 'Navigator (Observer)'.

    I'd like to know about the grading. Was this single engine to twin?

    Also, I assume this grading was the same across the board for BCATP?

    Many thanks!

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    My understanding is that single engine were denoted as Group I with twin engine Group II, so I don't think your annotations are linked to that.

    Do you have the dates for these musterings?

    Regards

    Pete
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

    [Always looking for copies of original documents / photographs etc relating to these subjects]

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    Some of the terms used in the above posts are TRADE GROUPS, and have nothing to do with the "grading", competence or experience of aircrew. So far as I know, all trade grouping throughout British Commonwealth air forced over the World War Two period were more-or-less-standardised, and ALL non-commissioned aircrew, from trainees at ITW to the most experienced ace, were all in Trade Group V (which, incidentally is the LOWEST trade group, and included personnel who barely had a trade at all, such as ACH/GD.) The TOP RAF Trade Group during WW2 was Group I, which included all the "higher" engineering (or at least technically highly skilled) trades, usually based on the length and extent of their training, which could progress from the "entry" trade to the "master" trade, as from Flight Mechanic (Group II) to Fitter IIE, and even up to Fitter I (although the entry and master trade descriptions are post-WW2 inventions; however the concept existed during the earlier period). To reach these dizzy heights of technical competence would take several years in WW2 (and definitely much longer in peacetime). Conversely aircrew had a comparatively short period of training (say approximately eight to ten months in peace time (off the top of my head), and during the war period decreasing to about half this from the very beginning (ITW) till graduation. In peacetime (1920s/30s) pilot was effectively the only flying trade, but this all changed with the re-introduction of the air observer in about 1937/38, and the wireless operator/air gunner and straight air gunner (as a full-time flying trade) after the outbreak of war, with other trades being introduced as required with the introduction of new technology as well as splitting of existing trades and requirements.

    Officers on the other hand were grouped into BRANCHES, which dictated their terms of service, pay and periods of promotions, etc., but aircrew (particularly in wartime) had to be viewed as an asset with a limited life, one of the facts which was considered when setting the periods of time to be spent at each rank. However to fill command posts, etc., (operational as well as training), higher acting ranks could, and were awarded at the discretion of squadron, station, wing or Group commanders, although these were subject to confirmation at higher levels.

    Competency of all aircrew (but particularly pilots, as they almost exclusively were appointed to fill command positions throughout the RAF, with the exception of specialist roles such as navigation, gunnery of signals leaders, and later flight engineers) was assessed on an annual basis, but all members of aircrew (and all service personnel generally) were generally under scrutiny at all times, not just by their superiors, but by their equals as well as those below them (but the last two usually had no say in the matter!). Flying competency as such, however, was probably less important than demonstrating good leadership qualities, initiative and the exercise of good judgement in difficult situations. One of the duties of all officers (and NCOs) was to constantly watch over those airmen under their command and watch out for "leadership qualities", examples of good clear judgement, and the quality of undertaking difficult tasks or additional duties in addition to their normal duties. Most junior officers and NCOs in fact probably did not really thank like that too often, but they might unconsciously start doing it anyway, and might sometimes be asked their opinion of a particular individual.

    In the annual assessment of a qualified pilot in particular (which was carried out by his commanding officer, almost certainly a pilot), he could be categorised as below average, average, above average, or exceptional, and this could also included ratings on his competency in certain skills such as bombing, navigation, gunnery, etc. No doubt like all other air forces, the RAF expected its average pilot to be average. However later in the war (or perhaps just after it), the system was simplified (which many though a mistake) by employing just two grades of general flying competency, now reduced to (from memory again!) "proficient" or "not proficient". One can only imagine that any qualified pilot who received the latter grade during his annual proficiency grading would be required to undertake a short refresher flying course to rectify the situation - can anybody comment on this? Perhaps this is the origin of the original question on this thread? Incidentally single and multi-engine pilots obviously have to have slightly difrent skill sets for operations different types (although all wear the identical flying badge - even helicopter pilots), but their logbooks will tell the full story.

    Flying instructors (and by this I mean QUALIFIED flying instructors) were very carefully assessed during this new stage of their flying life, and many were found unsuitable for various reasons, including lack of patience, poor interpersonal skills (modern term for lack of abi8lity to clearly impart knowledge on concepts), or simply a lack of interest in such duty. Conversely classroom instructors in the RAF were usually volunteers from various trades who considered themselves to be knowledgeable in their trade and with sufficient skills to impart this knowledge to beginners. Unfortunately this sometimes resulted in this person appearing in a classroom in front of 50 or a hundred students, but with no real instructing ability, which could make for very boring lectures. The RAF corrected this defect after WW2, when they introduced "Teaching Practise" courses for all aspiring classroom instructors, something which the teaching profession had figured out decades earlier. However many people figure it out "on the job" very quickly. One of my uncles (who I can vouch had very good interpersonal verbal skills) had volunteered as a "principles of wireless" instructor in about 1942, and because I share his surname (which is an uncommon one) I was approached in the playground in the 1960s by another pupil who asked if my father was the Tom Duxbury who was one of the instructor at Wigram in wireless during WW2. I was a little surprised by this, and told him my relationship to Tom. Turns out that this other boy's father had heard his son mention the Duxbury name (there were two of us at the high school at the time) and wondered if we were related. Also the reason this man took an interest in the name was that he was also a WW2 wireless operator and he thought that Tom was the pick of the instructors during his early training, so much so that he could not wait for the classes in which Tom was the presiding instructor. He found that he really ENJOYED learning, something which he apparently did not experience at school (which also shows that a "natural" instructor can often be more inspirational that one who had learned to teach by the book). However even Tom would admit that he would have benefitted by a short course on "teaching practice" as there were many little tricks and strategies which teachers/instructors could employ to keep up the interest of their students. However he did gradually learn of these during his first, then second stint of being an instructor at the E&W School.
    David D
    Last edited by David Duxbury; 15th June 2015 at 01:05. Reason: Expansion of ideas, after cutting myself short!

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