Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
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British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

A World War II Memory - Cy Roberts, Flying Instructor

​​In this Oral History, Cy Roberts submitted his recollections of three training incidents that occurred at No. 12 Service Flying Training School where he was a Royal Canadian Air Force instructor for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Brandon Manitoba
Gentlemen (and Ladies)
The attached is submitted at the persistent and honorable request of the McNabb family of Minnedosa (Manitoba)! They are very much on your team – if not in fact – very much in spirit – and have been pressing for a contribution of some experiences  occurring in the training of pilots at #12 (Service Flying Training School). 

A flight of Cessna Cranes overfly No. 12 Service Flying Training School, Brandon on opening day - DND photo.
​​The writer was fresh from F.I.S. (Flight Instructor School) to #12 December 12, 1942. He was to remain there exactly 2 years and one week – thereon being posted to Macdonald (No. 3 Bombing & Gunnery School) – as an instructor. He was to be involved with New Zealanders - Aussies – Canadians – some Brits – the lot – and as you can imagine – lots of different situations.
Your correspondent is C.M. Roberts, Toronto, Ontario.  
                                                                               Contact! – No. 1
                                                                          "Who's got the reins?
This (now) old instructor had nearly finished his course at #2 F.I.S. Vulcan, Alberta. He doesn't know it yet- but shortly he'd be reporting to #12 S.F.T.S. F.I.S. has done a good job - taught their new instructors the correct and thorough way to teach their students. i.e. demonstrates, then explains precisely. The explanation is called PATTER. PATTER practice is obtained by flying with a classmate - and carefully instructing each other!
In this particular case - he's in the front seat of a Cornell - hands folded – enjoying the day. He's had a good hour of practice - weather is beautiful - and they're going home!
Then gently - the aircraft dips to starboard - gently drops 4,500 feet – and gently rises to just about the original height - then if that isn't enough – it gently dips to port - drops another 4,500 feet and back where we started. It seemed ready to repeat again when this instructor says to his rear seat friend: "What the HECK are you doing?"
He gets a straight rather annoyed answer: "What do you mean - what am I doing?" "Aren't you flying this?"
"No aren't you?"
"No!"- We'd been pilotless!!!
Note: When you hand over control say loudly "You are in control"! The response is "I have control" It can head off a lot of problems.

                                                                                      Contact! – No. 2

                                                                                      What's a little Ice?
P/0 Roberts just posted to #12- reports to A flight Dec 1/42. Flight commander is FO Kjellander - an able individual who is a good friend to this day. Roberts is now ready for duty.
Later in the day "Sky" Kjellander directs him to take a Crane to Chater (our relief field) about 10 minutes air time away - two of our students have had their a/c (aircraft) go US (unserviceable??).
Shortly, he's there and picks up New Zealanders Adolph and Sherrif (thank- you log book). Then airborne, and about five minutes later, their windscreen is suddenly coated with ice - totally! They have NO forward vision. Icing this severe can be bad news. The ice itself adds weight to the a/c and building up on the wing can actually change its shape and effectiveness.

The instructor knows he has to get down as soon as possible, he's peering out his side window with his students peering out theirs - he's careful to keep his sped 10-15 miles higher - and shortly notes the boundaries of #12 - he's 20-30' feet higher than normal - then suddenly WHAM! The alc just stopped flying and dropped heavily onto a gravel strip short of the paved  runway. They're down and please to be in one piece!
Interesting note re: icing. Teaching the subject must come first in ground school and secondly of course from the flying instructor. When icing  conditions do prevail at or near the station- the 0/C (officer in charge??) flying, using his own judgement plus consultation with his MET (meteorological) man - must either wash-out flying immediately - or specify dual only. Sometimes a critical, difficult but urgent decision.
In our case, seeing some other ice signs, and witnessing our difficulty flying was washed out immediately.
(Handwritten note – in flying at #12 for a couple of more years, we would experience other icing – but never again as sudden – or so heavy!  C.R.)

                                                                                   Contact! – No. 3
                                                                                  Follow the Leader!
Part and parcel of earning your wings at SFTS is training in night flying. When a student is ready for the night phase - he'll fly a number of night circuits with his instructor - then when considered ready, he'll be sent for several nights to fly these circuits solo. Confidence rising he'll then be slotted for a couple of night x-countries with his instructor.
At this point in our story a new instructor has just been posted to #12 and assigned to "E" flight. After a few days getting acclimatized he is scheduled to take one of his four students on a 3-hour night x-country. It was at this point he asked his flight commander (self) if he could follow the F/C's aircraft for this trip.
As the territory was completely new to our new man, we agreed - instructing  him to meet us at 6000 feet directly over the airport. He was to flash his lights for identification - and we would respond likewise.
He did - and we did - and we're off leading the way. The trip itself was uneventful - weather good - and about 3 hours later we're home. Our course had been triangular – Brandon - southeast then northeast - then home on the final leg.
Anxious to hear how our new man had gotten along, we waited for his return in the flight room - and waited - and waited! After another half-hour we advised our station of our concern - then after another half-hour we alerted Command – our alc was missing!
Ten or fifteen minutes after that call - we received a call ourselves. It was our new instructor. Conversation went like this: Self " Man we're glad to hear your voice"
He "We're OK"
Self " Well where are your?"
He "We're in the States"
Self "in shock - in the States?" (couple of minutes later but barely composed- "How come you didn't follow us?’’
He "Well when you responded to our light flashing over the airport YOU LEFT your lights OFF - and we soon lost you’’
Later when he realized he was "good and lost" - he fired a flare from his a/c  and saw what seemed to be a fairly flat, cropped farm field - it proved to be very, very fortunately adequate when one considers the soft spots and invisible holes that might have caught him.
You think that's the end- Wrong! It took about 3 days to get our new man, his student and the aircraft back to #12. During that time he had stayed with his aircraft, as he should - then when word got around the rural community, that a Canadian aircraft had made a forced landing at night in a local field - he and his student became celebrities!
Possessed of good looks and a good personality he proved to be an excellent ambassador. The kindly farm folk brought meals for both of them. The US government folks however, while co-operative and friendly took a  poor view of foreign aircraft's "sneaking" into their country at night. They had strong objections at a similar event in daytime - but there's something sinister when this takes place at night.
Our "new instructor" and his student came back with a lot of stories - the main one however, was of a trip they'll never forget. Neither will their Flight Commander!