Trainer Formation


Photo by Paul Bowen

America Trains For War

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt made his speech first describing America as the Arsenal of Democracy in December 1940, many people well understood that war was on the horizon. In preparation for this anticipated war the American Industrial complex was mobilized to produce modern weapons, not least of which was the airplane – with automobile manufacturers even pitching in.

With aircraft production steadily on the rise, who would fly these new aircraft? Schools to train airmen were rapidly established across the United States. Hundreds of Thousands of Americans would answer the call to serve in the air, undergoing rigorous training to prepare them for a different kind of war.

Featured Aircraft: Boeing PT-17 Kaydet

Known affectionately by its crews as the Stearman in reference to the original producer of this aircraft, the Boeing PT-17 is perhaps the most iconic trainer aircraft of the war years. Its Bi-plane configuration and powerful engine made it a capable aircraft, with its duel cockpits and controls it was also an excellent teaching platform. At the controls of this aircraft young men who would later carry the war to skies over occupied countries could learn the basics of flight in relative safety. In addition to serving with the Army Air Forces the Stearman also served with the Navy, where it was officially identified as the N2S. Many military aviators would make their first solo flight in a Stearman.

Featured Aircraft: North American AT-6 Texan

During the war, the ready availability of fuel and aircraft inside the continental United States meant that American pilots could enjoy the highest standard of training in the world. Many other Allied nations even sent their men to train in the U.S. for this reason. Training of American airmen was divided into 3 stages, Primary, Basic and Advanced, with each phase featuring its own associated aircraft – which gradually rose in complexity. The AT-6 in many instances was the ultimate trainer aircraft for those pilots who had been selected to fly fighter aircraft. It was in this type that they would even master the art of dogfighting. With their total flight time approaching 200 Hours, pilots eagerly awaited transition to combat aircraft.

Featured Aircraft: Beech AT-11 Kansan

Training aircraft Crew Members was as important as training pilots. Many of the larger aircraft used during the war require multiple crew members to operate and defend their aircraft. Specialized aircraft, often derivatives of small commercial transports came to the fore front of this field. The Beech Model 18, saw its wartime derivative – the AT-11 used extensively in this role. Navigators, Gunners, Bombardiers and other crew members would train for their various specialized tasks separately, only being united a few short weeks before being deployed. Bombardiers who were increasingly critical to a war hinging on a massive strategic bombing campaign knew the AT-11 well, for over 80% of them trained onboard one.

Also Including: Assembled Trainers and Liaison Aircraft

While the 6,000 Fairchild primary trainers produced during the war are dwarfed in number by the 10,000 Stearmans produced, they are no less critical to the narrative of the war. In many cases, the need to share the burden of manufacturing aircraft meant that several different aircraft types would be used in similar training programs.

Accompanying the flight of training aircraft will be the liaison aircraft, a range of small aircraft used by the military for forward observation – spotting for friendly artillery, identifying enemy troop movements, and evacuating critically wounded soldiers. In one particular instance, Charles Carpenter (then a major) equipped his L-4 Grasshopper with Bazookas, scoring an estimated 14 kills against German tanks, six of which were confirmed and two of which were the fearsome Tiger I.

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Trainer Formation

Aircraft Type: Boeing PT-17 Kaydet- North American AT-6 Texan – Beech At-11 Kansan – Assembled Trainers and Liaison Aircraft
Organization: Several pilots and organizations will participate in the formation.

Greg Dexter; Dan Haug; Will Loving; Tom Malone; Tom Malone; Mike Ginter / Dave Kahley; John Mazza Jr.; Mike Pangia; Jim Koch; John King (Flying Circus); Juston Currier; Rick Conn; Dave Brown; Frank Isbel; Mike Kuhnert; Tom Inman; Mark Denest; T.R. Proven (HGR Museum); Jerry Smith ; CAF Rio Grande Valley Wing; CAF Jayhawk Wing; CAF Bucket of Bolts Group; CAF High Sky Wing; CAF National Capitol Squadron; CAF Old Dominion Squadron ; John Coradi; Chuck Tippett.

Photo Credit: Paul Bowen

**The aircraft listed have agreed to participate in the flyover, but due to factors such as weather or mechanical issues,participating aircraft are subject to change without notice.**