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Pilots Empty Pilots

Post by DIESEL on Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:39 am

Prior to the war, the RAF's processes for selecting potential candidates were more concerned with social standing than actual aptitude. By summer 1940, there were over 9,000 pilots in the RAF for approximately 5,000 aircraft, the majority of which were bombers.[citation needed] However, the problem of pilot shortage was self-inflicted, due to inefficiencies in training and assignment. With aircraft production running at 300 each week, only 200 pilots were being trained in the same period. In addition, more pilots were allocated to squadrons than there were aircraft. Another problem was that only about 30% of the 9,000 pilots were assigned to operational squadrons; 20% of the pilots were involved in conducting pilot training, and a further 20% were undergoing further instruction, like those offered in Canada to the Commonwealth trainees, although already qualified. The rest were assigned to staff positions since, RAF policy dictated that only pilots could make many staff and operational command decisions, even in engineering matters. At the height of fighting, and despite Churchill's insistence, only 30 pilots were released to the front line from administrative duties. For these reasons, the RAF had fewer experienced pilots at the start of the battle, and it was the lack of trained pilots in the fighting squadrons, rather than the lack of aircraft, that became the greatest concern for Dowding. Drawing from regular RAF forces as well as the Auxiliary Air Force and the Volunteer Reserve, the British could muster a total of some 1,103 fighter pilots on 1 July. Replacement pilots, with little actual flight training and often no gunnery training whatsoever, suffered high casualty rates.

The Luftwaffe could muster more fighter pilots, 1,450, mostly due to more efficient training, who were more experienced overall. Drawing from a cadre of Spanish Civil War veterans, they had comprehensive courses in aerial gunnery, as well as instructions in tactics suited for fighter-versus-fighter combat. Luftwaffe training manuals also discouraged heroism, stressing the utmost importance of attacking only when the odds were in the pilot's favour.

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