A Demanding Training Regime

A Demanding Training Regime

The BCATP expected a lot from its recruits. The exhaustive curriculum and intensive schedule of classroom and flight training turned out air crew members at a dizzying pace, ready to serve overseas.

Elementary training took approximately eight weeks, which included at least 50 hours of flying. Aircraft commonly used at Elementary Flying Training Schools were de Havilland Tiger Moths, Fleet Finches, and Fairchild Cornells.

Successful trainees then progressed to Service Flying Training Schools for more advanced instruction. Because syllabus revisions were made throughout the war, the course length varied from 10 to 16 weeks, and flying time varied from 75 to 100 hours. Potential fighter pilots trained on single-engine North American Harvards while pilots selected for bomber, coastal, and transport operations received training on twin-engine Avro Ansons, Cessna Cranes, or Airspeed Oxfords.

After five weeks of theoretical training at Initial Training Schools, air observers would move to Air Observer Schools for a 12-week course on aerial photography, reconnaissance, and air navigation. This also included 60 to 70 hours of practical experience in the air. Observers learned the science of bombing during their 10-week stay at a Bombing and Gunnery School. With an additional four weeks at an Air Navigation School1, recruits were then ready for posting overseas. After June 1942, the duties of the air observer were divided between navigators and air bombers, thus replacing the observer category.

Airplane Photo Navigators specializing in bombing spent eight weeks at a Bombing and Gunnery School and 12 weeks at an Air Observer School. These men were then qualified as both navigators and bomb aimers. Navigators specializing as wireless operators trained for 28 weeks at a Wireless Training School and 22 weeks at an Air Observer School. Airmen studying to be air bombers spent five weeks at an Initial Training School, 8 to 12 weeks at a Bombing and Gunnery School, and six weeks at an Air Observer School. Besides learning how to drop bombs accurately, air bombers learned the map-reading and observations skills necessary for assisting navigators.


Training Photo Wireless operator­/air gunners spent 28 weeks at a Wireless Training School where they became proficient in radio work. Gunnery training took six weeks at a Bombing and Gunnery School. Straight air gunners, also taught at Bombing and Gunnery Schools, underwent a 12-week program involving ground training and actual air firing practice. Later in the war, a flight engineer was added to heavy bomber crews. Besides being an aero-engine technician, flight engineers received enough training to be able to replace a pilot who was killed or injured. Most engineers were trained in the United Kingdom, but about 1,900 engineers eventually graduated from the Flight Engineers School in Aylmer, Ontario, once it opened in July 1944.



SOURCE: Veterans Affairs Canada website.


1 Pennfield served as an "Air Navigation School (ANS)" from July 21st,1941 until May 30th, 1942.

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