given to new RNAS pilots
Learning to fly in World War 1
Flying training in WW1 was a vastly different affair to what it is today and I have collated
here a few choice quotations from the books that new pilots in WW1 will have read whilst having their pilot
training in the RNAS. These have been deliberately chosen to bring a smile to the faces of current pilots and new
members of the armed forces since the world has certainly changed since those days! These are exactly as written
including some dodgy grammar and punctuation.
From "The Flyers Guide" by Capt. N.J. Gill, an elementary handbook for aviators. 1916.
This book is long out of print and copyright although some copies do exist on the secondhand market.
"Nowadays a man is expected to get his "ticket" [pilot's licence] in three to four days"
"The beginner should be disabused of the old fallacy as to the colossal difficulty of a
"Many people only take about three or four hours' actually flying before they take their
"On an average the newly certified aviator has not been higher than 500 feet"
"As soon as the engine stops it becomes necessary to choose a landing place.......do not select
the edge of a precipice or even the sides of a railway cutting"
"A smoke and a match may prove of some comfort to the pilot who has to survey the remains of his
erstwhile flying machine"
"..nowadays the sight of an aeroplane will still attract a large crowd of inquisitive yokels.
Try and prevent them from breaking up the machine"
From "Hints for Flight Sub-Lieutenants" by an unknown RNAS Flight Lieutenant written in
approximately 1916, recently reconstituted and printed by Kenneth Deacon at Langrick Publications. This small book
was written to help new recruits through their first few months with the RNAS.
Mess and Manners...
"Never mention a lady's name and do not use any form of swear word, or tell doubtful
"Leave Senior Officers to themselves unless they show they want to talk to you. This is the best
"Don't offer Senior Officers drinks at any time"
"Jewellery of any sort is bad form for a man and for an officer in uniform is impossible"
[After the loyal toast has been made] "..... after that you can do what you like in reason
without fear of being fined or sat on."
Station Standing Orders...
"The appearance of strange aircraft must be reported to the Commanding Officer"
"Officers should not smoke pipes in the street when in uniform"
"... the word 'joystick' is never to be used in the Royal Naval Air Service"
Learning to Fly
"If you look down, do it in a disinterested sort of way without wondering how hard you will hit
the earth if something happens. It won't happen so why fill your head with rot of this kind? If you do feel that
you are not quite happy, fight the feeling, and say to yourself 'it is all nonsense!' "
"If you have to come down on rough ground 'straighten up' a little bit sooner than usual and aim
to come down flat. This will probably break something but no-one will mind that"
From "Learning to Fly - A Practical Manual for Beginners (1916)" by Claude Graham-White,
now reproduced in photocopy form by Kessinger Legacy Reprints.
"...a pupil need not concern himself if he does damage a machine"
[of instructors] "Pupils who want to do wild things must be sternly represessed"
"pilots who learn to fly abnormally quickly are apt to experience an abnormal number of
"A few balloon trips are a useful preliminary to flights in an aeroplane."
"Motoring experience proves useful"
The Test itself leading to issue of the Royal Aero Club
"Two distance flights consisting of at least 3 miles 185 yards, each in a closed circuit without
touching the ground"
[The distance flights] "must be marked out by two posts situated not more than 547 yards apart.
The turn round the posts must be alternately to the right and to the left so that the flights will consist of
uninterrupted figures of eight."
"One altitude flight during which a height of at least 328 feet above the point of departure
must be attained; the descent to be made from this height with the motor cut off. The landing must be in view of
the observers without re-starting the motor"