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The War Years

It was in this form, carrying on the high rate of production of Qualified Flying Instructors (QFIs) and testing new aircraft, that CFS entered the War. The first QFI course of the war, which began on 18 Spetmeber 1939, was reduced from 9 weeks to 4 weeks and RAFVR uniforms began to appear as full mobilization took place. The Refresher Squadron began to receive an assortment of pilots from all backgrounds who had volunteered for the newly formed Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), which was to relieve the pilot shortage by ferrying aircraft from the factory to the squadron. The ATA became locally constructed as 'Ancient and Tattered Airmen' when elderly and bald pilots, young pilots and not particularly fit pilots, some with only one eye or arm, arrived. But by no means all the ATA pilots were of these categories. Early in 1940 there arrived at CFS some young ladies who were far from ancient and tattered. Some were old hands like Amy Johnson and Winifred Crossley, who had given aerobatic displays with Alan Cobham's Circus, but at least one, Jean Hughes, was only 17 years old and almost certainly the youngest pilot ever to pass through CFS.

In the 12 months before September 1939 the fighter defences of Britain had improved from a force of about 600 aircraft of which all but about 90 were obsolescent bi-planes, to one of 35 squadrons of which 22 were equipped with the Hurricane and Spifire; these were to increase to 38 within another 6 months. CFS played its part in this expansion by writing Pilots Notes for the new types but it became obvious that the efforts were on too small a scale. There was a lack of uniformity in handling techniques and furthermore, the new aircraft were not giving the increased fighting power and efficiency that had been hoped for, because they were not being flown to best advantage. To overcome this the Air Ministry introduced the 'Examining Officers Scheme' that established a flight of 8 experienced officers to maintain liaison between CFS and the operational squadrons and to instruct the latter in up-to-the minute techniques.

Twice in 1940 the intake of pupils was increased and by the end of the year 90 pupils were accepted in each 5 week period. The examining officers had by now been absorbed into the Refresher Squadron and continued their duties worldwide. Some of today's familiar procedures can be traced back to this period. It came to their notice that whilst a party of Army officers was being flown from Iraq to Palestine in a Bombay transport one of them became badly airsick and made for the toilet at the end of the cabin. Three of his friends followed to help him and shifted the C of G so much as to make aircraft uncontrollable. This incident began the now familiar procedure of load sheet compilation and Centre of Gravity calculation.

Another procedure introduced at this period followed from the introduction of the newer more complex aircraft. Many of the early accidents happened because pilots forgot some operation that had not been necessary in earlier types and the now universal mnemonics for the take-off and landing checks were introduced. Those who have flow the Chipmunk will remember "My Friend Fred Has Hairy B---s" as the downwind checks! The Examining Officers Scheme contributed much to the efficiency and safety of the RAF, but it became impractical to deprive the operational squadrons of so may experienced officers in wartime and they were dispersed to command squadrons and to the operational training units.

CFS had become much like any of the other flying instructor schools and the Air Ministry felt the need for a 'training conference in permanent session'. Thus, in 1942 a new unit was formed, the Empire Central Flying School (ECFS), at RAF Hullavington in Wiltshire under the command of Group Captain Down. ECFS took many of the staff from RAF Upavon but left behind sufficient to form the nucleus of No 7 Flying Instructors' School. The ECFS was intended to draw the wide experience of the course members into a common pool for the benefit of all the training schools. Handling Squadron was responsible for preparing Pilots Notes for all new types of aircraft coming into Service and for advice on aircraft handling. Examining Flight was given the job of inspecting the Flying Instructors' School in the United Kingdom and re-categorizing instructors. A Research Flight was formed to investigate the practical and psychological problems of flying instruction. Eventually the Day/Night Development Unit was added to advance the all-weather flying aspects. The school was responsible for co-ordinating and revising untidy theories concerned with the art of flying and from its AP1732, the modern instructor's 'Bible', the AP3225 Instructors Handbook, was evolved. It had been intended to retain ECFS after the war as a permanent centre of flying training research but in 1946 the Central Flying School was revived and moved to RAF Little Rissington. ECFS was renamed the Empire Flying School and continued in existence for a few years before being disbanded. The nucleus of the staff was transferred to RAF Manby in Lincolnshire to open the Flying College. Manby later became the home of the College of Air Warfare, part of which was the School of Resfresher Flying.