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USAAF Glider Training Airfields

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Title: USAAF Glider Training Airfields  
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USAAF Glider Training Airfields

During World War II civilian flying schools, under government contract, provided a considerable part of the flying training effort undertaken by the United States Army Air Forces. In 1941 the Air Corps directed Flying Training Command to establish a glider training program. Contract schools opened soon after. Most had closed by mid-1944.

Glider pilots, unlike pilots in powered aircraft, did not have a powered aircraft which could gain altitude once the pilot released the tow line. They could only descend. Once a pilot committed to a landing and discovered, as he got closer, that the landing zone was under fire, mined, or otherwise obstructed, he had little room to maneuver to make a safe landing.

Many Glider Pilots were already qualified and skilled powered aircraft pilots who had earned their CAA (Civil Aeronautic Administration) civilian pilot's license before war broke out. Some had already gone through flight training but had been disqualified, not for lack of skill, but for problems beyond their control such as slightly deficient eyesight.

Early Glider Pilot training used recreational soaring gliders such as the Laister-Kauffman TG-4A as trainers. They were more agile and capable of gaining altitude more easily than the CG-4A Waco and British Airspeed Horsas the pilots would eventually fly into combat. Since they did not adequately simulate the flying characteristics of combat gliders, the Army Air Corps procured trainers that did - the Aeronca TG-5A and Taylorcraft TG-6A. Part of the training program used powered single engine aircraft that were flown aloft and then the engine shut down.

Students learned to perform maintenance and, in an emergency, to rebuild wrecked gliders. This was a relatively simple operation, considering that the primary glider consisted of little more than a shell, equipped with radio, wheels, and brakes.

By late 1944 Training Command ended all glider instruction, both flying and technical. Rather than create a separate glider force, the Army Air Forces had decided it would be more profitable to train its troop carrier pilots to also operate gliders.

References

  • Manning, Thomas A. (2005), History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002. Office of History and Research, Headquarters, AETC, Randolph AFB, Texas ASIN: B000NYX3PC
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