Civil Pilot Eagerly Await Army Assignments

March 4, 1943

Rapidly Expanding Air Force Will Be in Need Of 400,000 Aviators; Good Future in Skyways Seen in Time of Peace

News Analysis and Commentator

WNU Service, Union Trust Building, Washington, D.C.

Washington, of late, has become increasingly air-minded and although the war has caused it, peace will benefit.

A recent advertisement expressed the idea strikingly. It said: “We exist upon one globe and inside another. Our planet earth is the center of a larger air-globe… both globes, as one unit, follow the same orbit. We take our air with us and always have.”

It is our activity in that larger globe, the heavens, which is going to be vital to America when the war is over. Now we are concerned with small sectors of the sky, our scattered air fronts. Later we shall be concerned with linking them all together in peaceful and profitable air commerce.

In recent weeks, many members of congress have been giving thought to preparation for that day, and “x” thousand (the number is a military secret) young men who have in the past months learned to fly under the Civil Aeronautic Authority’s War Training program — the boys who will be the nucleus of our pilots after the war — are fairly bursting with impatience to spread their wings.

Train Civil Pilots

America is planning a military air force of some three million men. Since the rule of thumb says eight men on the ground to one in the air, that means we are going to need some four hundred thousand pilots. The “x” in the “x thousand” men I mentioned as being civilian trained or in training does not equal four hundred thousand now but it will help. Before we went into the war, this need was visualized and the Civil Aeronautics Authority created the civilian pilots training courses to which there was a tremendous and enthusiastic response. Not only from the boys and men of “fighting” age which is young for combat pilots but of fellows from 18 to 37 who could become flying instructors — or could pilot transport and cargo planes.

Some of these civilian trained pilots are enlisted in the United States Army Air Force Reserves, those who passed the physical and age requirements for combat flying. The others hoped to get into some kind of military aviation service other than combat.

The army in January called all of its enlisted reserve except those who were in the midst of a college term (they will be called when the current term is over). But because of lack of facilities for training, the reserves who were in the air force have to be called slowly and those who are found to be eligible to qualify as flying cadets will begin their final military instructions by April first. The complete list of colleges where they will receive this training will soon be announced.

Meanwhile, the boys in the reserves and those who are training for transport flying are becoming very restive. They have been given free instruction and subsistence but they receive no pay as flying cadets do, and they have to furnish part of their own uniforms. any gave up jobs to take the training or are hesitating to take jobs because they expect to be called. Some of them have been “expecting” a long time and their morale has sunk to the depths. I have talked with many of them and they have my sympathy for they are so anxious to spread their wings, so anxious to serve their country and so weary with waiting. Of course, some have been able to get into the air force, but not many have, and the brass hats of the army incline to look down their noses at anyone not army-trained.

Army Fliers Experts

Of course, there is no denying that flying a training plane and flying a combat plane are two quite different things. As one air force officer, who really is sympathetic with the CAA program, said to me:

“Remember that a man who has spent fifteen to twenty hours in the air is not a combat pilot. You might be able to take off from a field in a 60-horse-power crate and land all right but that doesn’t mean you can handle a 25-ton, four-engine job with its 200 instruments and spend perhaps 12 to 14 hours in the air without seeing anything but those 200 instruments.

“Of course, you’ll get along faster the first days in school if your mother has taught you your ABC’s.”

That is the attitude of the professional. It is hard to take and a lot of people in the army and out think it is somewhat cavalier. They think that if it hadn’t been for leaning very heavily on tradition, a lot of these boys who have their “ABC’s” would be showing their stuff right now instead of breaking their hearts waiting. They feel it is pretty hopeless. They are wrong there. It won’t be long now. But it is easy to understand how that fine enthusiasm can fade when the effort, the time and the sacrifice of civilian plans seem to be passed over with little more than a shrug.

It is to be hoped that shortly after this appears in print, the boys will be on Uncle Sam’s payroll. They have friends in Washington who are working for the. Then, even if they have to mark time a little longer, they will feel that their Uncle believes they are worth their salt.

Burma Air Road

It is easy to see the reason why these and a lot of other boys will be needed in the air now. We are going to open a Burma road of the air. Supplies are going to China by that route now but it is only a trickle. We have the transport planes and many more of them will soon be in service. And what the air traffic will bear is not to be sneezed at.

An airplane that can carry five sons, or ten tons, can make a run in a couple of hours which would take two weeks on the ground. Of course, moving freight by air isn’t the most economical way but money doesn’t matter in war. Ad it must be remembered that in peace time, it is cheaper to ship by water than by rail. But where would America be if it weren’t for the railways? After the war, it will be the same with the airways, which are being blazed by bombers and will be followed by freight and passenger planes in a happier day.

Every time our bombers take off, something is learned that can be turned to peace-time profit. And so far, we have not begun our bombing in Europe. One observer who knows aviation said to me just after Casablanca:

“All we have done over Germany and France so far is really experimental. It is really a testing. A few sporadic daylight raids. The bombings by the American air force are insignificant compared to what will be done when we get under way. And remember: we’ve got good weather coming up.”

And so the “x thousand” boys who have learned to fly — most of them — will soon have their chance. One of the enthusiastic supporters of the civilian pilot training program said to me:

“Don’t worry. Unless the war stops suddenly, the army will soon be saying: ‘Can you fly? All right, here’s your plane, get in.’ And when peace comes, civilian demand is going to keep ‘em flying.”

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