In 1952 Dad first attended flight school at a small base in Maldin, MO, right in the midst of the Korean War. After receiving his wings, Dad was sent down to Lubbock, TX to finish his training, including gunnery training, at Reese Air Force Base. Then he was sent to Del Rio Air Force Base to button up his gunnery training. I remember him telling me he was just shy of making it into the Korean War, disappointed that he was unable to jump right into action. Besides the termination of the war, Stalin had died and Russia was emerging as a superpower, boasting official relations with practically every nation. With her expanded economy and influential ties around the world, including that of the Chinese Communist Party, Dad received orders to go to Europe, transferring to the Woodbridge Air Force Base in England. It was here he became a fighter bomber pilot with the 79th in the thick of the Cold War. Once he returned stateside, Dad flew out of Louisville, KY, where I was born, and shortly thereafter, became one of the first pilots to train others and fly the C-124’s during the VietNam War. Flying was the love of his life and he reluctantly retired in 1972 due to family obligations. He truly was never the same after he left the military.
Here is an example of what his training was like.
Malden Air Base
1951 – 1960: Anderson Air Activities
When the United States entered the Korean Conflict in 1950, the U.S. Air Force stepped up its pilot training program. Malden, with its existing facilities, was reactivated in 1951. The hangars were emptied of the corn and hay stored in them and an intensive rehabilitation and remodeling of buildings and barracks was soon underway to meet government requirements.
The pilot training program at Malden Air Base would be operated by Anderson Air Activities of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This civilian contractor would oversee pilot training at nine bases throughout the country. AAA opened its civilian personnel office at the base June 24, 1951. The 3305th Training Squadron was officially designated and assigned to the base on July 11, 1951.
Heading Anderson Air Activities at Malden was its founder, Mr. E. Merritt Anderson. An experienced pilot and aviation expert, Mr. Anderson had served as president of the Aeronautical Training Society, president of the Wisconsin Aviation Trades Association and vice-president of the National Aviation Trades Association. He served as an advisor on the (Wisconsin) Governor’s Aviation Legislative Committee and on the Steering Committee of the Beech Aircraft Corporation. His contracts with the U.S. Air Force would see thousands of young men trained to become outstanding pilots and military leaders.
The first pilot trainees arrived in August and included aviation cadets, student officers and European NATO students. Class 52-F included 47 officers, 41 cadets and 11 foreign students. As would all students undergoing flight training at Malden Air Base, a rigorous schedule would be followed.
Report to flight-line
Students received 130 hours flight training and 167 hours of military training during their 26 weeks at Malden Air Base. In the early years of the base, students flew the small PA-18 and graduated to the T-6. In 1955, the PA-18 and T-6 were phased out and more advanced planes were introduced. The T-34 was used for the first 40 hours of flight. Once a student was proficient in this light aircraft, he would begin 90 hours of training in the T-28.
Students also received 250 hours of academic training which included:
Principles of Flight
Aural and Visual Code
Instructors at Malden Air Base were selected according to their knowledge as well as their ability to teach. To qualify, instructors had to have previous teaching experience as well as flying experience. An emphasis was also placed on the number of Civil Aeronautics Authority ratings held. Prior to teaching any classes, Anderson Air Activities instructors attended an indoctrination course in Air Force procedures for Academic Instructors at Goodfellow Air Base in San Angelo, Texas.
To students the AAA instructors were quite similar to basic training drill instructors. For the most part, they were able to pass their thoughts along to students without much confusion. Praise from an instructor was the ultimate reward. Flying skills were tested in night flights to Paducah, Kentucky, and other locations in the midwest. The first solo flight a student undertook was both intimidating and exhilarating. Hours upon hours were devoted to study and training. Instructors taught and, in some cases, pushed. It would come down to one man in one plane. Every student pilot faced the same challenge in his course of flight training at Malden Air Base. Flying beneath the Ohio River bridge at Cairo, Illinois, was not a part of the official training program and, we’re sure, was discouraged! An official count of planes returning suspiciously wet was never taken!
Stage 1 – Academic Classes and Pre-Flight Training
Academic instruction generally begins the day of your class start date, so plan to hit the ground running! Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training is challenging, exciting, and very rewarding. In order to complete the program, you must be committed. It will not be an easy process, but at the end of training you will be extremely proud of your accomplishments. Expect to spend approximately 4-6 weeks in Academics. During this time, you will be attending various classes, performing computer-based training (CBT), Aerospace Physiology training, and various other indoctrination requirements.
When you first show up for Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT), you will report to the Operations Support Squadron (OSS). The OSS owns you during Phase 1 of training. They will schedule you and your classmates for all of your activities and training.
Use this time to get familiar with the 12-hour training day. The Air Force aviation training world operates under a 12-hour training day – that is, if you show up at 0600, expect to be busy until 1800 (12 hours later). Expect a minimum of 12-hours of crew rest before your next event and then the cycle starts all over. You can expect long days starting in academics. Classes, training, and tests will fill your day. A lot of time will be spent in the computer lab doing CBTs and even taking quizzes or tests on the computers. Expect to be studying and preparing for class at night. Physical Training (PT) will be intermixed in the daily schedule as well. Don’t forget to factor in class events such as class meetings, social events, group study sessions, etc.
Remember, class unity is important. Your classes will encompass aircraft systems, flight regulations, instrument flying, aerospace physiology, navigation, flight planning, and aviation weather. Expect to know these topics thoroughly prior to finishing Phase 1. At the end of Phase 1 you will be ready to “hit the flightline”. That is, you will be moving from the OSS to the flying squadrons and start your flight simulator and aircraft training.
Stage 2 & Stage 3 – The Flightline
Once you hit the flightline, the intensity picks up. You can expect at least one training event each day, in addition to additional flight duties. A training event can be either a flight simulator event or an aircraft sortie. The action is fast paced and it is likely to be scheduled for more than one event (flight and/or simulator) in a day. Your flightline day starts each day with the morning briefing. This is a formal briefing held in each flight room and attended by all students and IPs. Your flight commander will run the briefing and you will cover such topics as weather, student trends, landing pattern tendencies, general knowledge questions, and Emergency Procedures (EPs). The EPs are done in a “stand-up” format that is designed to recreate a stressful environment similar to what is experienced during an actual in-flight EP. Students are given certain EP scenarios and stand at attention reciting what they would do in that situation, taking the EP to its logical conclusion. If you answer incorrectly or do not know your knowledge, you could be grounded for that day. Students also brief the flight on the day’s weather, landing pattern, and other items. The formal briefing is a stressful way to start each day.
Following the briefing, your flight will execute its flight schedule. If you are not scheduled to fly an aircraft or simulator, you are expected to sit in the flight room and study. All students will remain in the flight room until the last student is done with his/her flight or simulator, then, at the 12-hour point of the day, all students are dismissed. At that point, by USAF regulation, you will be given 12 hours of crew rest and start the cycle all over again the next day. As you can see, days are much longer than the typical “banker’s hours” job. Flying several sorties – especially pulling Gs and aerobatic maneuvers can prove to be very fatiguing. In addition to the flights and simulator events, you will be taking weekly written exams. All your academics, weekly tests, daily maneuver grades, check ride scores, and flight commander’s ranking make up your final grade. With everything that you do counting as a grade, you want attention to detail. At the end of Phase 2, your class is racked and stacked in order of merit. In this order, each student chooses his/her desired track for Phase 3. You are not picking a specific airframe, but a track. During your track select you can pick: T-38 (fighter / bomber track), T-1(tanker / airlift track), UH-1 (helo track), T-44/C-12 turboprops (C-130 track). You will be training in these aircraft during Phase 3. At the end of Phase 3, you will again be ranked in order of merit and at that time pick your specific aircraft (based on the track that you are pursuing). For example, a student that track selected T-38s will then be able to pick among available fighter and bomber aircraft.
You’ll learn basic flight skills common to all military pilots at one of three places: Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi, Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas, or Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma.