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Learning to Fly WWII Airplanes

Pilot and aircrew training began long before they arrived at the Service Flying Training School in Claresholm.

3 airmen and 6 mechanics in front of airplane and hangar

Pilots and ground crew pose in front of Avro Anson training plane at No. 15 SFTS.


The Manning Depot

After acceptance into the British Commonwealth Air Training Program, new recruits reported to one of seven Manning Depots located across the country. At the Manning Depot, each recruit would obtain his uniform and kit. He would then receive 4 – 5 weeks of military and physical training, and of course, learn how to march and salute!

Airman holding model airplane in front of instructor and nine seated students

Aircraft Recognition Training: Plane identification lectures and camaraderie. Student holding an Anson.

While at the Manning Depot, each recruit took aptitude testing to determine which stream of training he would move forward in. Some would carry on to pilot or aircrew training, while others would move on as all-important ground crew trainees.

After the Manning Depot, pilot and aircrew recruits started on their 26 – 28 week training programs, moving to bases and schools across the country as their training progressed.

Group of men in military uniforms watching instructor demonstrating anti-aircraft gun

Gunnery Training: Weapons training was included in the program at No. 15 SFTS.


Initial Training School

The first phase of training for pilots and aircrew was Initial Training School (ITS) at one of seven locations across the country. Initial Training School consisted of a four-week long ground course in flying fundamentals.

Male instructor holding two model airplanes in front of 5 students in airforce uniforms

Formation Flying Training: flying in formation began in the classroom at No. 15 SFTS.


Elementary Flying Training School

Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) was the second phase of training, where recruits finally got to take to the air. This phase of training lasted eight weeks. Each recruit received 50 hours of basic flying instruction. There were 32 Elementary Flying Training Schools active in the BCATP throughout WWII.

Two young men in military uniforms in aircraft with wireless radio.

Wireless Training: wireless communications were used in flight and on the ground.


Service Flying Training School

7 airmen looking at maps on table

Navigatin Training: Studying maps, geography and potential flight paths at No. 15 in Claresholm.

Once recruits mastered basic flying skills, they moved on to the next phase of training – Service Flying Training School (SFTS). This portion of the course lasted 16 weeks. There were 29 Service Flying Training Schools set up across the country, with approximately 2/3 of these located in the prairie provinces, including No. 15 SFTS at Claresholm, Alberta.

5 men in military uniforms and wearing headphones working at desk

Communications personnel also trained at the airbase in Claresholm.

The course at Claresholm consisted of up to 100 hours of in-air flying time. This allowed students to practice take-offs and landings in all  weather conditions, aerobatics, navigation and night flying.

However, all of this was initially practiced safely on the ground in a flight simulator called the Link Trainer.