Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, March – May 1943
My first flight as a pilot was in the Fairchild PT19 Trainer during 2 months of Primary Training at Cimmaron Field near Oklahoma City. After about 14 hours, I finally soloed.
Each instructor had about 8-10 students. During a flight, our instructor sat in front, took the control stick and occasionally “beat knees” when the pilot trainee wasn’t performing one of the maneuvers. As I told my VA Hospital doctor, my tennis game suffers from this “knee treatment” back in WWII.
Unlike some of the trainees, I never vomited. Just imagine being at the amusement park in Coney Island – flying in an open cockpit with the windshield as the only canopy, doing a loop or a stall and going into a spin and recovering and hanging just by your seat belt upside down out of the plane.
We were outfitted with the appropriate flying gear especially the sheepskin collared leather jacket and sheepskin lined flying helmet to keep us warm at higher altitudes even during the summer months.
I wore a parachute each time but never had to bail out. In fact I don’t remember anyone bailing out during training since we usually had an emergency landing in case of trouble. If you did parachute out of the plane at any time, you became a member of the Caterpillar Club.
Flying was only a short portion of Primary Flight Training since we would only be up for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Revelry was at 6 or 7 AM, most of the day was spent in the classroom, physical fitness or at meals, and lights out at 10 PM.
I completed Primary Flight Training and was sent to Winfield, Kansas 5/24/43 for Basic Flight Training.