RAF Valley: Hawk T2 aircraft

RAF Pilot training process

Pilot Training / September 20, 2022

It depended on the air force and the period of the war.

Both Britain and the US mounted major training programs when war broke out but the supply of pilots early in the war often did not keep up with demand and both shortened and compressed their training.

Here's an overview of the USAF training program as of May 1944.

In the 1930's, US flight training lasted twelve months. In 1939, total training was cut to 8 months and then seven months with 10 weeks allotted to each of the primary, basic and advanced stages.

After Pearl Harbor, the training program was compressed again with 9 weeks each for primary, basic and advanced training.

By mid 1944, the stages were lengthened to 10 weeks apiece and after VJ to 15 weeks.

Even though the Air Force shortened the duration of the training phases, it tried to keep the flight hours up: 70 - 75 hours of flying in the primary phase went to 65 hours in 1939, with around 200 hours of flight time logged by the end of advanced training.

Transitional and operational training was the most important preparation for combat. Pilots were trained on the planes they would actually fly in combat and were introduced to gunnery, bombing and tactics for the first time.

The Royal Air Force is harder to characterize since it provided several paths to becoming a pilot. In addition to the standard RAF training program, there was also the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) and a reserve officer training plan. BCATP set up a common training program for Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The British training programs allotted between 17 weeks (1940) to 20 weeks (1942) to 34 weeks for the primary/basic/advanced phases of flight training. After completion, graduates were sent to Operational Training Units (OTU) to get their transitional and operational training (anywhere from 8 to 14 weeks).

When RAF Fighter Command was under extreme pressure in the later stages of the Battle of Britain, the RAF considered OTU squadrons as being eligible for use in combat and replacement pilots were receiving severely truncated transition and operational training, as little as a couple of weeks training in Spitfires and Hurricanes.

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