Syerston Aerial View

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Syerston Leads In Pilot Training 1959 - (No2 FTS)
(From Battle Of Britain Air Display Programme Sept 1959)

Hunting Jet Provost From No2 FTS Syerston 1959

THE choice of Syerston as the first of the Royal Air Force's flying training schools to be equipped exclusively with the new Jet Provost trainer is an event of no small importance in the annals of Nottinghamshire, since it marks the opening of a new era in the history of flying training. Since the earliest days of the Royal Air Force many airfields in this county have been the homes of flying training schools, and it is fitting that one of them should be chosen as the first to put into operation a new system of military pilot training.

When Syerston and the other flying training schools have received their full complement of Jet Provost trainers every pupil pilot in the Royal Air Force will start his flying career and complete the whole of his basic training on jet aircraft. In adopting this new method the Royal Air Force is giving a lead to all the air forces of the world.

The development of flying training over the past half-century has been a gradual process, both the aircraft and the techniques used having been in the main gradually evolved. In neither aircraft nor techniques has there hitherto been any revolutionary change.

Progress has been steady but gradual - from the open to the enclosed cockpit, from the biplane to the monoplane, from fixed-to variable-pitch constant-speed propellers. Flaps have been introduced, and wheel brakes, and there has been a striking increase in the array of controls and instruments which these innovations have made necessary. Methods of communication between instructor and pupil have likewise developed from the early hand signals to a simple speaking tube, and from this in turn to the modern electrical " intercomm."

Hunting Piston Provost From No2 FTS Syerston 1959

Instrument flying and reliance on an increasing variety of radio communications and navigational aids have become a commonplace to the pilot of today, and all these developments are necessarily reflected in the syllabus which governs the training of modern service pilots - from their very first flight.

It might well be imagined that the increasing complexity and higher performance of modern training aircraft would add greatly to the time needed to train their pupil pilots, but this is not so. Indeed, it is a striking fact that in the thirty years separating the de Havilland Moth from the Hunting Jet Provost the amount of dual instruction required by the average R.A.F. pupil before he is ready for his first solo has increased scarcely at all, this despite the tremendous increase in the power, weight and speed of the modern trainer and its range of equipment.

This fact undoubtedly results in large measure from advances in aerodynamic knowledge and aircraft design, from the continuing development of instructional techniques and, almost as certainly, from the adoption of the now standard side-by-side seating arrangement which allows both instructor and pupil to see as well as hear and feel what the other is doing. But perhaps most important of all is the fact that the innate ability of the average pupil pilot has in the past been sadly underrated.

Very few flying instructors of twenty years ago would have believed that pupils with no previous flying experience could handle an aircraft such as the pistonengined Provost unaided after no more than ten or eleven hours of dual instruction. Yet in the past few years hundreds have done so. Still fewer, if any at all, would have believed that such pupils could, with no more preliminary training, equally well handle a jet-powered aircraft - had such an aircraft been thought of at that time. Yet their ability to do so has been proved beyond dispute.

When the conventional piston-engines appeared some years ago to be reaching the limits of their development, and when it began to appear that the performance of the aircraft they powered was for this reason likewise reaching its limit, the advent of Frank Whittle's turbo-jet engine opened up new possibilities, the full extent of which has yet to be realised. As is always the case when any new equipment is brought into use, it had now to be decided at what stage in his training the pilot should be introduced to these new jet-powered aircraft.

The first application of jet propulsion was to a new generation of front-line fighters, knowledge of the new handling techniques involved being passed on by their test pilots to a limited number of selected and highly experienced fighter pilots. As more experience was gained conversion to jet aircraft became normal for all operational R.A.F. pilots, and in time special training units were established for the conversion of newly-qualified pilots to jet fighters (some of which had by then been converted to dual control). At a still later stage the Advanced Flying Schools of Flying Training Command were equipped with jet trainers (de Havilland Vampires), the result of this being, that on graduation the newly qualified pilots had received approximately one half of his training on jet aircraft.

It is clearly illogical to use piston-engined aircraft for the basic training of pilots in an air force which is destined to become virtually all-jet, and over and above this there are two very real objections to this system of pilot training.It is not possible in this short article to analyse the differences in the techniques of flying piston-engined and jet aircraft ; it must suffice to say that there are differences and that these differences can in some circumstances be vital. This is not to say that one is more difficult so handle than the other ; it is merely that they are essentially different.

It is a basic principle in teaching whatever the subject that no instruction should be given at any stage of the curriculum which must later be "unlearned" before further progress can be made. But where a pilot receives his primary training on piston-engined aircraft and his advanced training on jets this is precisely what must happen. That is the first objection to the mixed-training scheme.

The second is that the advanced jet trainers are relatively high-performance aircraft which are expensive in both first cost and operation. It is therefore desirable in the interests of economy that their use shall be reserved as far as possible for the high speed and high-altitude, flying for which they are particularly suited. But before he can absorb this type of training the pupil must first be introduced to the basic principles of jet flying, and to use the costly advanced jet trainer for this purpose is neither economical nor efficient.

To meet these criticisms of the mixed-training system it was suggested some years ago that the training of pilots for a preponderantly jet Royal Air Force should be done exclusively on jet aircraft from the start, a suggestion which was at first received with considerable scepticism. Resistance to this proposal was to be expected, since in most people's minds the turbo-jet engine was for long associated only with very high-performance aircraft, and certainly not with the docile and relatively low-speed aircraft required for primary flying training. Past developments in primary trainers had, as we have said, been gradual and unspectacular; the forward step now proposed appeared to many to be excessive and altogether impracticable

As designers and builders of the Royal Air Force's two previous standard basic trainers, the Prentice and the piston-engined Provost, Hunting Aircraft had for several years past made a close study of flying training requirements and methods. Basing their opinion on this experience they firmly advocated the possibility of designing a primary jet trainer which, while having a far higher all-round performance than its piston-engined predecessor, would at the same time retain all the docile handling qualities (particularly at the lower end of the speed range) which had made the piston engined Provost so successful as an "ab initio" and basic trainer.

Formation Of Jet Provosts From No2 FTS Syerston 1959


The doubters having been partially won over, an order was placed for a small number of the original Mark 1 version of the jet Provost, and with these a prolonged and exceedingly thorough pupil-training evaluation was undertaken by No. 2 Flying Training School when it was stationed at Hullavington, this involving approximately 6,700 hours of flying and the training of some 50 -pupils. Long before this evaluation was completed doubts had given way to conviction. It had been proved conclusively that the all-jet training concept was practible, highly effective and economical. This evalution of the proposed new jet trainer was by far the most comprehensive ever undertaken by our own or any other air force.

Hunting Piston Provost Airborne From No2 FTS Syerston 1959

At the same time Hunting Aircraft went ahead with an extensive programme of overseas tours to prove the performance of the Jet Provost in every type of climate and under the widest range of operating conditions. It has flown in the depth of winter in Scandinavia and in the hottest weather in Aden, India and Pakistan ; it has flown in Canada and the United States, in Trinidad and in Australia ; in Ecuador it has operated from airfields ranging from sea-level to 10,000 feet up ; it has been flown over the Andes . . . these are some of the gruelling tests to which the Jet Provost has been subjected during the 11,000 hours of flying completed with it before the new trainers entered regular Royal Air Force service at No. 2 Flying Training School, Syerston.

During all this searching evaluation and testing many valuable lessons have been learned, and 'all this experience has been embodied in the latest Mark 3 version of the Jet Provost with which Syerston is now equipped. From Syerston will henceforth issue a flow of jet-trained pupils who will have wasted no time in learning techniques which they will not need at later stages in their flying. Nothing they learn here will have to be "unlearned" afterwards. From start to finish, from primary to advanced training, from advanced training to operational flying, there will be no interruption or delay in the progressive and continuous development of their education as pilots of the Jet Age.