The Places You'll Go
Baron - 4
Baron - 3
Baron - 2
Baron - 1
the Cassutt - 2
Up in WV
Rico - 2
on the Roof
Ready For War
who are interested in WWII aviation history are aware that one
of the reasons the United States won the war was her amazing
record of aircraft production once we were in the fight. From
producing scarcely more than 2,000 military aircraft in 1939 to
over 96,000 in 1944, the record year, the US produced a total of
over 303,000 military aircraft during the war years. But where
did we get the pilots to fly them?
1939 the Army had a total of only 4,502 pilots, including 2,007
active-duty officers, 2,187 reserve officers and 308 national
guard officers. The number of new Army-trained pilots grew
rapidly each year as war seemed more likely, from 982 in 1939,
to about 8,000 in 1940, to more than 27,000 in 1941 -- but many
more were needed, and the Army by itself could not train the
huge numbers of cadets desperately required. But we had a plan.
In 1938 President Franklin D. Roosevelt had given his
support to a program to train 20,000 civilian pilots a year.
With the clouds of a European war gathering in the east, the
United States began a program, known as the Civilian Pilot
Training Program (CPTP). Roosevelt supported the plan to train
20,000 civilian pilots a year to create a pool of potential
military pilots that he believed the country would need soon.
The program created a much-needed pool of civilian fliers who
were ready for further military instruction to fly a
fast-growing armada of U.S. aircraft.
CPTP eventually operated at 1,132 colleges and universities and
1,460 flight schools, and CPTP-trained pilots did well in
further training at USAAF schools. Recording nearly 12 million
flying hours, the CPTP trained 435,165 pilots from 1939 to 1944.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the CPTP's name
changed to the War Training Service (WTS). From 1942 until the
program ended in the summer of 1944, trainees still attended
college courses and took private flight training, but they also
signed agreements to enter military service after graduation.
Trainees from the CPTP entered the Army Air Forces
Enlisted Reserve. Many went on to further instruction and
commissioned service as combat pilots. Others became service,
liaison, ferry and glider pilots, instructors, or commercial
pilots in the Air Transport Command.
The CPTP gave
African Americans and women unprecedented opportunities in
aviation. Pioneering black fliers campaigned hard for public
awareness of their abilities, and their efforts paid off with an
anti discrimination rule within the CPTP -- a landmark in racial
equality for blacks in aviation. Though training remained mostly
segregated, instruction for black students began at six schools:
the West Virginia State College for Negroes, Howard University
in Washington, D.C., Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Hampton
Institute in Virginia, Delaware State College for Colored
Students, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College.
The program soon expanded to several more schools.
best known was Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where the first
black USAAF combat pilots were trained. The CPTP graduated
around 2,000 black pilots overall.
Women also found
new opportunities in the CPTP, but these were unfortunately
ended before the U.S. entry into World War II. Four women's
colleges initially participated, and women were enrolled at
other schools at a ratio of one woman for every 10 men. When war
preparation needs demanded that all graduates enlist, women were
automatically excluded because they were not allowed to fly in
the military at that time. Nonetheless, the CPTP trained around
2,500 women by mid-1941, and many of them became Women Airforce
Service Pilots, or WASPs.
In West Virginia there were
six airports where the Civilian Pilot Training Program was being
taught, three run by the Navy, three by the Army Air Corps and
all as part of a curriculum with a local college.
to my home, Brinkerhoff Flying Service, which operated a CPTP at
College Park, MD operated a satellite school at Lewis Field in
Buckhannon. The students were enrolled in the program at West
Virginia Wesleyan College, where Arthur B. Gould, Professor of
Chemistry and Physical Science at Wesleyan, taught navigation
and meteorology to the aspiring aviators.
In 1968 when
I came to Lewis Field as a young instructor, the airport was
almost deserted. Disuse and abandonment was the story the
airport whispered to me that cold and blustery February day, and
only three dust covered airplanes rested in the dimness of the
aging hangar. But It was apparent that something significant had
occurred here. Although more than twenty years had passed since
this this hangar was home to a cog in a huge training
organization, there were still artifacts that attested to it.
The hangar for one, was larger and more substantially
built than one would expect to find at a country airport with a
1600 foot sod landing strip. The passing years had weathered it,
but it remained sturdy and square.
smaller hanger next to it had obviously been the repair shop and
used parts that had been replaced by new ones still lay on the
shelves in numbers that indicated that they may have maintained
small airplanes here, but they did so in a big way. In the years
that I operated Cubs and Champs there, I raided parts inventory
many times to keep my airplanes in the air.
discovered the airport's greatest artifact of that wartime era
the following year, when one of my students asked if he could
trade an old airplane that his uncle had left him for flying
time. Of course I said, and he took me to see it.
wings had been removed when it was stored in that barn near
Buckhannon, and on that April morning in 1969 I rolled the dust
covered Piper out into the first sunlight it had seen since
To my amazement the airplane turned out to be
one of the Brinkerhoff trainers, J-3 N25911, which had taught so
many pilots at Lewis Field on their way to war. It became my
beloved Sundance and shared my life for the next 45 years.