Early Flight Engineer Training

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PeteT
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Early Flight Engineer Training

Post by PeteT »

As part of my aircrew training research, I am in the process of researching early flight engineer training and I have extracted the following from information I have recorded on the RAFCommands Forum http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showth ... ining-WWII

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Bomber Command

"No. 35 Squadron was reformed in November 1940 with the objective of "bringing the Halifax into operational use". However, almost a year earlier, the Air Ministry had recognised that both the Stirling and the Halifax (as well as the Sunderland) would need an "engine watcher".

Five No. 35 Squadron Fitters were initially trained to perform the Flight Engineer role, qualifying in February 1941, one month before No. 35 Squadron flew its first operational sortie. (Course length, location and content not known)

I do not know if No. 35 Squadron was the only Bomber Command squadron who had Flight Engineers at such an early stage [Can anyone advise on the situation regarding the Stirling squadrons and which other squadrons had the Halifax during the early part of 1941?]

Coastal Command

Does anyone have any documents which would show when the "engine watcher" was introduced?

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Has anyone got any information on early flight engineer use on the Stirling (and/or can anyone provide feedback on any other aspect of early flight engineer training / usage)

Regards

Pete
Researching:
CA Butler, flight engineer Lancaster ME334 (KIA over Bonn with 35 PFF on 4th Febuary 1945) http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/
Ground Crew and Aircrew Training WWII
"The History of No 35 Squadron" http://35squadron.wordpress.com/

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PAFG
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Re: Early Flight Engineer Training

Post by PAFG »

Hi Pete,

AIR 41/71 (AHB Training Narrative) suggests the Flight Engineer role became policy on 27 Feb 42, when Bomber Command reluctantly accepted the One Pilot Policy within AMT's 'New Deal' on training. The main driver was that the resources required to train two pilots per bomber meant the front line couldn't expand. The only two solutions examined were to reduce training time or reduce the number of pilots trained. The Narrative says the end of the two pilot policy were:
'. . . regarded with grave distrust . . . at the beginning of February [1942] Bomber Command were considering one-pilot crews in Halifaxes, Whitleys and Wellingtons, and two-pilot crews for Stirlings, Lancasters, Manchesters and Liberators . . . A conference was held on 12 February [first half dealt with AMT's pre OTU 'New Deal' training] . . . The second half of the conference dealt with two aspects of prime importance in OTU planning: the standard at which pilots should be turned out by OTU, and the conversion of second pilots into captains . . . the fatigue argument for two pilots could be disregarded; casualties to first pilots and the need for second pilots to take over had proved rare, and could be many times offset by the accidents which occurred while second pilots were being trained. Captaincy and the need for someone to relieve the first pilot while he acted as captain were the main factors, but the 'captain's relief' need not be a highly trained pilot . . . [Squadrons didn't have the capacity to train second pilots to become captains.] . . . As a result, the conference recommended that second pilots should be abolished and on 27 February the last step in settling these 'New Deal' plans was taken when Bomber Command [reluctantly] accepted one-pilot crewing . . . They stipulated that aircraft should have automatic pilots, that flight engineers should be carried in Stirlings, Liberators, Halifaxes and Lancasters, that one member of the crew should be capable of bringing the aircraft back in an emergency and that provision should be made (by establishing 26 pilots per squadron of 20 aircraft) for pilots to get operational experience before they took charge of aircraft on missions . . . [BC proposed split of observer role into nav and air bomber] . . . new basic training courses were introduced for navigators, air bombers, wireless operators/air gunner, air gunners and flight engineers . . . The new courses began in April 1942.
pp750-52

This doesn't answer the question directly, but it suggests that any 'engine watchers' or even 'flight engineers' in 1940/41 were local solutions and not BC policy. I only have the BC-specific chapters from AIR 41/71, it may be there's a line or two in the CC chapters that might add a bit more.

HTH,

Richard

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PeteT
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Re: Early Flight Engineer Training

Post by PeteT »

Thanks Richard

As you say, FE Training was formalised in 1942, with the first course at St Athan starting on 30th May. The length of the first few courses (which were for qualified Fitters) was reduced from six weeks to three / four weeks.

I am sure that No. 35 Squadron was not the only squadron operating the Halifax with a FE prior to this, but I don't know when the Halifax was introduced into other squadrons, and I don't know when the first Stirling went into operational use (with or without a FE).

The original No. 35 Squadron Fitter / Flight Engineers were trained by a chap from A & A.E.E. (Sgt Watt) but I don't know whether he (or others) carried out the training with other squadrons.

Lots more to find out, but if anyone can provide information on the Stirling squadrons I may be able to pull a bit more detail together.

Regards

Pete
Researching:
CA Butler, flight engineer Lancaster ME334 (KIA over Bonn with 35 PFF on 4th Febuary 1945) http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/
Ground Crew and Aircrew Training WWII
"The History of No 35 Squadron" http://35squadron.wordpress.com/

Davenport7
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Re: Early Flight Engineer Training

Post by Davenport7 »

Hi Pete,

Not that I can help much by my grandfather (Les Davenport - WO/AG) who flew 13 operational sorties with 7 Squadron Stirlings out of Oakington (May 41-Sept 41), their crew was always alloted a flight engineer but wasnt it down to pilot discretion.

I know that on the early Stirlings my grandfather was Front Gunner, then there was a rear gunner, Observer, Engineer, Pilot, Co Pilot and Navigator. Bomb aiming duties were given to the navigator in the early days, well I know for definate on my grandfathers crew.

Regards

Ian Davenport

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PeteT
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Re: Early Flight Engineer Training

Post by PeteT »

Thanks Ian; every snippet of information helps.

I have no knowledge regarding the Stirling squadrons, so I don't know how common the use of a qualified Fitter / Mechanic as a Flight Engineer was during 1940 / 1941 / 1942, nor whether training was purely "on the job" experience.

I will keep digging away.

Regards

Pete
Researching:
CA Butler, flight engineer Lancaster ME334 (KIA over Bonn with 35 PFF on 4th Febuary 1945) http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/
Ground Crew and Aircrew Training WWII
"The History of No 35 Squadron" http://35squadron.wordpress.com/

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PeteT
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Re: Early Flight Engineer Training

Post by PeteT »

I am just re-visiting this subject and have done more research into the early training programme.

However, I am still short of information on when Fitter (FE) were introduced into the Stirling crews. No 35 Squadron (Halifax) had them as early as 1941 and 1940 documents suggest that they were to be introduced on the Stirling at the same time.

Can any of the Stirling Squadron researchers advise on when the first Fitter (FE) were introduced (if at all).

Regards

Pete
Researching:
CA Butler, flight engineer Lancaster ME334 (KIA over Bonn with 35 PFF on 4th Febuary 1945) http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/
Ground Crew and Aircrew Training WWII
"The History of No 35 Squadron" http://35squadron.wordpress.com/

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Re: Early Flight Engineer Training

Post by colinpateman »

This is without doubt the knowledge base for the Short Sterling but we appear to be coming up short on Flight Engineer information. When brought into service the position of Flight Engineer was not policy nor structured in training. Has anyone evidence of what took place with engine minders or co opted ground crew engineers within the Stirling.
I thought if this question was posed in this way we may be able to develop this area more from the forum members.

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