JUNE 1,1943 -- AUGUST 1, 1943
NAS OTTUMWA, IA.-- PRIMARY FLIGHT TRAINING
Upon the completion of this segment of training we each received
orders to proceed to our next station which was primary flight
school. There were several flight schools in the middle west:
NAS Minneapolis, NAS St. Louis, NAS Olathe, Kansas and NAS Ottumwa,
Iowa. We could choose so I chose NAS Ottumwa. It was only ninety
miles from Des Moines and I could and did take off for home at
every opportunity. Des Moines was a great liberty town for the
personnel at Ottumwa in that NAS Ottumwa was the only military
station within several hundred miles with the exception of Fort
Des Moines. Fort Des Moines was the Women's Army Corps induction
center. The town was crawling with unattached young women. Unfortunately,
it was my hometown and I was there to visit my family. It might
have been unfortunate, but it was a kick for my sisters as we
walked down the street and I would receive an endless supply
of salutes from these women soldiers. They were not required
to salute since I and the uniform were only a cadets and not
entitled to a salute. A cadet wore an officer's uniform but lacked
the stripes of rank and a commission. I wasn't going to tell
Allison family minus two
Up until now our training was just a time filler as far as the
Navy was concerned. We were considered absolute neophytes as
far as flying was concerned. We were starting out from scratch.
Program was the same half-day ground school and a half-day flying
as we had in WTS. We were quartered in a barracks, 120 cadets
on the first floor and 120 on the second. My group was assigned
the first floor. Again being alphabetically
number one I caught the top bunk above a guy in the previous
class, I think his name was White, which made him last in his
class. The only reason for mentioning this is that one night
just before "lights out" I was standing up- right on
the top bunk and must have bounced because the wires supporting
the mattress gave way and I plunged through. There I was standing
up to my waist in my mattress with my feet on his mattress. At
that moment the lights went out and I spent the remainder of
the night sleeping in a hole with my fanny about six inches from
this guy's face. The next morning I repaired the springs.
NAS Ottumwa was a new base that had only been open for about
a month when we arrived. The field was a large macadam square
that served as a runway for a wind that could come from any direction.
This was convenient for us fledgling flyers since we would have
no cross winds to contend with. The operations buildings and
the ready room were small square temporary wooden shacks. In
that it was still Spring and rains were plentiful, the area around
the macadam was a quagmire of mud.
I would guess that there were about 100 N2S's for about
three or four hundred students which served pretty good in that
four students were assigned to one instructor and he could take
up only one at a time. We were limited to one-hour flights so
that the four students would each get in one hour of flying in
the half of a day on the flying schedule. The N2S was known by
other names, such as the "PT-17" for the Army Air Corps.
Also the "Yellow Peril" because of the bright yellow
color for both the Army and Navy. The plane was a biplane and
had two, in tandem, open cockpits. It had a 225 HP engine and
was very maneuverable. Truly great for acrobatics and as about
as safe an airplane as anyone would want.
Lt Margie F. Wada, ANC. The future Mrs. Allison
The training program consisted of five stages. The first stage,
as I recall, was familiarization and soloing. The last was formation
flying. The "in between" stages were for gaining confidence
in the flying and receiving instructions in every thing you could
do with the plane, such as slow rolls, snap rolls, loops, split
Ss, spins, slips, stalls and a variety of other things including
night flying. Also included in these stages were rides with "check"
pilots who would either approve your techniques or give you a
"down". A "down" was a fail to pass the check
and required a second check ride. Another "down" meant
that you would have to take extra instruction in that stage.
A third "down" and you were on your way home with a
future of a new career in the Army or Navy. Although I never
considered my self a "Hot Pilot" I never received a
"down" in primary flight school. One of the instructors,
whose name was Rubishotus, was famous for his "downs".
Wouldn't you know he was from Des Moines and graduated from North
High School. Luckily, I never got him for a check ride.
My flight in primary consisted of three other cadets, Don Bopp,
Charles Coleman, William Clark. Our instructor's name was Ensign
Robert Liggett. He was two or three years older than the four
of us and had been in the Navy maybe a year longer than we. He
had gone through the flight program, graduated from NAS Pensacola.
He was assigned to three months of instructors school and sent
to NAS Ottumwa as an instructor. We were his first students.
We all got along fine with Liggett and the flying. Even though
I didn't have a "down" as I said before, I came close
on "slips to circles". In the process of teaching me
to slip a plane to a 100-foot circle Liggett demonstrated a very
nice slip and hit the circle square in the center. The he told
me to do the same. I made a slip identical to his and hit the
circle, not so neat as his but in the circle. He said "great!,
now just do the same thing every time." In my practice sessions
I wasn't so lucky. When it came to a check for this stage of
the program, my "check" pilot jerked off the throttle
as we passed along side the circle at an altitude of about 500
feet and said "hit the circle. With an idling engine and
losing altitude rapidly I banked into the field lined up on the
circle, place the plane in a slip and just short of the circle
and about 15 feet in the air I kicked the plane out of the slip
expecting to hit the circle in the center. Not to be, the plane
ballooned and we sailed right across the circle and touched down
well beyond the circle. The "check pilot" yelled out
"Good God!" who taught you to slip like that".
He said, "Now I'm going to show you how to slip a plane
after which you get to try to slip to six circles. If you hit
three of the six I'll give you an "up", if you don't,
you get a "down!" In his demonstration, he made his
approach to the field and as he lined up on the circle he pulled
the nose above the horizon, pushed hard on the right rudder and
held the control stick hard left to keep the left wing down giving
the plane a descending approach at an angle to the field. The
plane was just above stalling speed and shaking like a dog excreting
razor blades. At the last moment he kicked the plane square with
the line of flight. The plane hit the circle like a ton of bricks.
I had just learned how to slip to a circle. He landed the plane,
got out, said: "try your luck! Pick me up when you're through".
I did, hit three, got my "up" and again never had any
trouble with slips to circles, small field procedures, nor "check"
pilots in primary after that. All that was required to do the
slips right was to make a "rock" out of the plane and
let it drop- a controlled drop, that is!
Another stage of our training was night flying. It's really no
different than day flying except that on a really black, overcast
night you can't see anything. If you are lucky enough to have
stars or the lights from a town or a farmhouse you can survive.
If you don't have any lights or a horizon then you are on instruments-needle,
ball, air speed, a compass and an altimeter. With these you can
survive, but it takes training. We didn't have nor would we get
instrument training until we reached Pensacola. Therefore, it
was spooky as hell when we had our training in the dark of the
For night flying, a runway was laid out on the macadam square
with two rows of flare pots running parallel to each other and
about fifty feet apart and always into the wind. On my first
experience at night flying, after I had taxied to the end of
the so-called "runway", I received the green light
to go, advanced the throttle and immediately the plane veered
to the left. By the time I got the plane straightened out, the
plane was running straddle of the left line with the flares squarely
between the wheels of the plane. Rather than taking a chance
on hitting a flare pot while trying to get back between the two
rows, I just held the plane straight until it had enough speed
to lift off the ground. If I had damaged the plane that would
have been the end of my flying days.
One of the dangers of night flying was vertigo. That is a dizziness
that is experienced by staring at a single point of light on
a dark night. To avoid vertigo you have to keep shifting your
eyes constantly. I don't know what would have happened those
days of primary training without instrument training. A pilot
subject to vertigo would lose control of the plane and spin in.
Night flying wasn't especially fun as far as I was concerned.