How were pilots and crews assigned to planes?

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by mikky, Sep 14, 2019.

  1. mikky

    mikky Member

    I'm researching a man killed in a 108 Squadron, Wellington bomber operation over Sidi Barrani on the 27th of June, 1942. I have a couple of questions regarding how crew and captains were assigned to an aircraft.

    The pilot on this particular flight was Sergeant Street, the aircraft Wellington 1C ES.981 which took off from Kabrit and was shot down between that place and Sidi Barrani.

    27/6/1942 Wellington 1C ES.981 Sgt Street "Ops" took off from Kabrit 9.00 p.m. ...Missing Kabrit-Sidi Barrani area.

    On the previous day, (26/6/1942), Wellington ES.981 had been piloted by Sgt P Lettington, and Sgt Street had flown Wellington T.2735.

    How was it decided a particular plane would be flown by a particular pilot, and, did the crew go with that particular pilot on whichever plane he was assigned to, or were the crew always on a particular plane, with, which ever pilot was assigned to that plane?

  2. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    My understanding was that at the beginning of the war pilots, air crews and ground crews were kept together as far as possible for the duration of a tour and each crew had its 'own' aircraft. At some point it was decided that it would be a more efficient use of resources if mechanics maintained a pool of aircraft and pilots and air crews drew an aircraft from the pool for each mission. However this doesn't seem to have happened in Europe until about 1944. The Desert Air Force were somewhat innovative and many things that became RAF SOP originated as something that they had developed in the first place so it's possible that this was introduced in N Africa by 1942. From what I'm read it was bitterly objected to in many quarters. From war time memoirs it would seem that pilots and aircrews stayed together for a tour
  3. mikky

    mikky Member

    Thank you very much Robert-w that's very interesting. So fitters could work exclusively on a few planes and make sure they were airworthy then crews assigned. I can understand why crews would not like that. I suppose that ended naming of particular aircraft.

    Thanks very much


    I take it everyone is aware that these diaries are now available to download online for £3.50/diary month Click
  4. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    As regards Bomber Command, crews would generally stay together after OTU and and on the operational station fly any aircraft available on the BC planned operation according to the outcome of the latest "pre fight inspection" sometimes referred to as "daily inspections".Availability being the key to the numbers of aircraft that could be put up for any operation.Aircraft availability would be a return made at squadron level,then to station HQ,then made to Group and in turn to Bomber Command HQ after the "daily inspections" had concluded. Following the daily morning operational meeting at BC HQ, presided over by Harris, targets would be selected and declared,determined by availability.Aircraft numbers would be notified for the operation from BC to Group and then by Group to individual selected stations and their resident squadrons.

    Any crew absences due to sickness,leave or casualty would be covered by others who were not required for the operation or spare bods who were not part of a crew but part of the squadron strength.Early in the war it was not uncommon for armourers to fill in as ad hoc gunners and engine fitters to undertake the role of Flight Engineers until the FE training scheme produced graduates to man the four engine B.C aircraft when they entered service. Some crews decided to sign up for a second tour,others elected to take up instructor roles while others due to the crew split up found themselves posted to another squadron at another location.Some experienced squadron Flights were used as the nucleus for newly formed squadrons as the Lancaster squadrons expanded.

    Taking squadron pilot strength as an example.On a 3 Flight Bomber Command squadron would have 24 aircraft but 30 pilots on strength,it would be similar for other aircrew designations.There was always aircrew being posted in to a squadron as a policy of succession to counter for losses,either posted in from other squadrons or direct from HCUs and in the case of the Lancaster, from Lancaster Finishing Schools when these were established.

    No particular crew had ownership of an aircraft,it was allocated to them from the result of aircraft availability found from the daily inspection.However some pilots featured skippering particular aircraft a number of times.A look at aircraft crew statistics and ORBs will give details of the manning of particular aircraft through their term on the squadron.There were exceptions to this and this was afforded to squadron commanders who identified a particular aircraft as "theirs"and threw rank to maintain this..Aircraft were always subject to availability, damaged aircraft requiring second line servicing were conducted on site along with scheduled maintenance and had a good chance of being returned to the squadron or another squadron on the same airfield after repair or maintenance.Aircraft and engine supply contractors were generally in attendance on an airfield to assist in repairs and maintain maximum availability of aircraft.There were many reasons why an aircraft was declared U/S across the many trades involved in servicing. Second Line servicing would include preventative maintenance such as "Minor" and "Major" servicing which would be dependant on the airframe hours that an aircraft accrued and would account for longer period of being declared U/S.

    Aircraft with serious damage but capable of being recovered were repaired at contractor's aircraft repair centres such as those set up for AVRO at Bracebridge Heath in May 1941 and at Langar in May 1942.Aircraft were re-assembled from components recovered from damaged aircraft and new components.It has been recorded that in terms of spares used in the recovery of Lancasters, recovery equated to 700 Lancasters,Unrecoverable aircraft were struck off charge and aircraft fit for service were reallocated to any squadron which had a shortfall which was also made up with new aircraft arriving from AVROs and their sub contractors....not a question of an aircraft Pool policy but one of maintaining squadron strength at optimum level.Aircraft therefore would be found to have a record of service

    First line servicing was undertaken by squadron groundcrew who would conduct the "pre flight inspection" or "daily inspection".Each trade involved,would then sign the Form 700 which the pilot would sign and accept as the aircraft being airworthy,fuelled up and armed as appropriate.Coordination of the trades and the administration task would be undertaken at F/S level and this Chiefy would be the man to urge that the servicing and Form 700 requirement was carried out asap to meet the operational declaration time.On return from any flight,the pilot would note any snags found during the flight.In addition the aircraft would subject to an "after flight inspection" where any snags would be listed for the planning of repairs...typical day in the activities of a squadron.
    bofors, mikky, canuck and 2 others like this.
  5. Dave55

    Dave55 Very Senior Member

    I'm curious about Merlin reuse in tanks.

    What type of damage would render crashed Merlin engine parts unsuitable for aircraft reuse but still okay for use in tank engines?
    I would have thought a part was either cracked or bent or it was not but I know some other things must have been considered. If bearing tolerances and dimensions were changed by a crash I would think the part was then worthless for ground use too.

    Rolls-Royce Meteor - Wikipedia
  6. mikky

    mikky Member

    Harry Ree. My apologies for not thanking you for this excellent post. I have not visited this site for a few weeks, Many thanks indeed, your post extremely useful.

  7. dp_burke

    dp_burke Junior Member

  8. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Gunner Tours

    The RAF used an interesting method for selecting crews. Pilots, navigators, engineers, wireless operators and bomb aimers were put into a big shed and invited to team up. It worked surprisingly well.
  9. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Interpersonal choice among crews at the start of OTU training with the skippers getting a crew together....all threw up different personality traits....smokers, drinkers, introverts/extroverts.Social roots and physical appearance dimensions would also be counted for..Nationality discounted.... many crews consisted of mixed nationality types.

    At OTU, the transformation of crews from Flying Training Command graduates to being capable of being a well trained and proficient crew for a Bomber Command squadron commenced. OTU Course.......10 weeks together and 80 flying hours to get in and mould the group as a fighting unit.

    Flight Engineers were late comers and only joined a crew when their HCU course started.Their course at the No 4 School of Technical Training St Athan,a 12 week course on engines was ground instruction only.It resulted in that until they had reached an HCU,they had no flight experience of managing engines,fuel systems and acting as the pilot's assistance pilot.(It does seem that it would have been better if the FE could have joined the OTU crew at some appropriate stage) dedicated airfield per Bomber Command Group, usually equipped with Halifaxes,Stirlings and Manchesters relegated from front line operational duties for a variety of reasons......something that the fledgling crews had to contend with and at times were known, along with inexperience of crews to have contributed to fatal incidents. Some Lancasters were also placed in the HCU role to deal with the conversion training of the Lancaster but this was later abandoned in 1943.To replace this, Lancaster Finishing Schools for those destined for Lancaster squadrons, giving 12 hours flying was established.By the end of 1944,such was the delivery of Lancasters that HCUs once again had the aircraft on strength.

    To start with a 5 week course getting in 20 flying hours,honing their flying,navigation and bombing range skills.By the time the crew had graduated from its HCU,the pilot would have at least 350 flying hours under his belt.From 1944,HCU training was further intensified and HCU flying hours were virtually doubled.Pilots then possessed more than 400 flying hours overall and navigators having accrued over 200 hours from their flying training programme.

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