Index Home About Blog
From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: ME109 Black 6 - *Important* - Please read this message
Date: 15 Oct 1997
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

>>There is NO magic skill needed to fly a warbird. 20 year old kids with
>>less than 300 hours TOTAL time did it all of the time. Lots of the
>>'horror' stories about how hard things were to fly came from
>>INEXPERIENCED pilots who were thrown into these airplanes with the
>>minimum possible experience in order to feed the maws of war.

When the 49FG arrived in Australia in early 1942, most had zero time in the
 P-40 they were to fly in combat against the Japanese in a matter of weeks.
 When they transitioned to P-38s, they read the manuals, fired  up and took
 off.  If they landed in one piece, they were qualified in the type and sent
 back to the war.

Most of the planes they flew were "snafu specials," so beat up that things were
 always failing.  They were maintained by kids with as little experience as the
 pilots, who jury-rigged engine hoists and other necessary tools and equipment
 from whatever junk they could scrounge up.  The engines burned a near
 worthless mixture of gas, water and rust from old, leaky 55 gallon drums.  No
 wonder that on just about every mission somebody didn't get off in one piece
 and there would be a thick cloud of boiling black smoke somewhere off the end
 of the so-called runway.

If you wanted some entertainment, you could always go watch the ground crew
 work on your plane.  You could pick up great additions to your vocabulary of
 swear words by watching them set ignition timing.  One guy would be in the
 cockpit working the throttle while another guy would be flat on the wing with
 a screwdriver, head down into the bay at the back of the engine adjusting the
 points.  Sparks would fly everywhere and the guy with the screwdriver would be
 getting shocks so strong his body would jerk and jump and you could hear him
 swearing for all he was worth.  But he'd get it done.  And damn quick, too.
Then you could watch them work on the turbos and get them synchronized.  They
 would place big chocks under the wheels, then chain the plane to steel spikes
 they pounded into the ground behind it.  The guy in the cockpit would run the
 engines up to 76 inches MP while guys straddling the booms would hang on for
 dear life in a hurricane of prop wash and do whatever it was they had to do
 while the plane bucked and rear and climbed up the chocks and started pulling
 those big steel stakes out of the ground.
All this and more done outside in the mud and rain or the dust and the bugs and
 the heat and sopping humidy by guys who had relaxed the night before on
 cocktails of GI pineapple juice and anti-freeze, and were shaking from malaria
 chills and fever.

When a mission was ready to go,  the duty pilots were often so physically
 ruined that they had to be helped up the ladder and into the cockpit by their
 ground crew.  They flew their missions by habit and instinct and sheer dogged

Quite a contrast with the polished, perfect-condition prima donna warbird
 of today, flown by an accomplished veteran pilot under only the very
 best conditions.

Index Home About Blog