Dale Wilson: Cadet Training

Pilot training early in WWII usually meant a couple of months in three phases–Primary, Basic, and Advanced–before a cadet earned his wings.

Dale Wilson’s initial tests and studies were at at Santa Ana, California.

Primary Training

Hancock College, Santa Maria, California

From July to September, 1942, Dale finally got to fly! This had been his dream since childhood, when he and his younger brothers pooled their quarters and dimes to come up with $1 apiece to get a ride in a biplane when they still lived at Dexter.

In Primary cadets learned to take off and land a small plane, usually in a Stearman biplane, along with turns, glides, and stalls. Planes used for training were painted in bright colors so they’d be easily spotted on the ground if lost. They were indeed to solo after just eight hours of training, with check-rides at 20, 40, and 60 hours. Dale could be washed out at any stage. Ground School included Weather, Aircraft and Engines, and Aircraft Identification. He logged 60 hours in the PT-13 and PT-17. 


Basic Training

Gardner Field, Taft, California

In Basic, cadets got seventy more hours of flying, including twenty at night and ten cross-countries, in a larger low-wing plane, the BT-13, with an enclosed cockpit and several instruments. And nearly 100 hours of Ground School classes. By December 1942, Dale’s flight time totaled 131 hours.

See below for Dale’s details about flying a BT-13, especially for those younger brothers still at home, who were also hoping to eventually become pilots.


Advanced Training

Roswell, New Mexico

By the time Dale earned his wings, he’d logged almost 228 hours. In Advanced he flew the AT-9, AT-17, and got his first hours in a B-25 Mitchell Bomber. Dale still hoped to fly fighter (or pursuit) planes, which had one engine, but the B-25 was a twin-engined bomber, and that early in the war, the Army needed bomber pilots.


How to Fly a Basic Trainer

(divided for easier reading)

*  Especially for his younger brother Danny’s benefit, Dale described flying a basic trainer in detail: “First you put on a parachute, sunglasses, and headphones and get into the airplane. Then you check the Form #1A for the mechanics release. If OK, then you fasten and adjust the safety belt and connect headset to radio; put prop in high pitch and mixture-control full rich and crack the throttle about an inch; turn switch on and start energizer (electric motor that speeds up the inertia starter) at the same time slowly working the wobble pump and the primer. Then you engage the inertia starter while continuing to work wobble fuel pump until the engine starts, whereupon the engine fuel pump functions to maintain fuel pressure.  After the engine has run a little bit, you put the prop in low pitch. Then you be sure to check gas gauges and see that the tank selector valve is on the correct tank and that all instruments are working. Then you release brakes and taxi out to the runway and stop on a 45 degree angle to rev up the motor to 1500 r.p.m. and check both left and right magnetos.”

Straight as one of Dad’s corn rows

“If OK you then roll down 20 degrees of flaps, give it the gun, gradually raise the tail by a little forward stick, keeping plane rolling straight as one of Dad’s corn rows until you have flying speed. You then ease back on the stick and take off smoothly, immediately cutting the throttle back to 2100 r.p.m. and rolling back elevator stabilizer until you have a 90 M.P.H. climb and climb up to 6000 feet, doing one 90 degree turn after another. You level off and put prop in high pitch and roll up flaps. You then do your air work up around 6000 feet or a little higher. We leave mixture control full rich all of the time because the engine runs cooler and we are liable to ruin engine by detonation.”


“Well, to come down and land now. You cut the motor, roll down 20 degrees of flaps, and roll back elevator stabilizer until you have a 90 M.P.H. glide. You do 90 degree gliding turns down to 2000 feet, roll up the flaps and of course rolling elevator stabilizer ahead to neutral or where you can maintain level flight. Then fly over your field and check the ‘T’ which governs the traffic according to the wind direction. Then you go out so as to be beyond the traffic pattern, throttle back to 1500 r.p.m., turn on the down wind leg, turn on your base leg. Just before making the turn into the field, throttle back, roll back elevator stabilizer and get a 100 M.P.H. glide, ease on a little throttle, put the plane in a steep bank into the field, cut the gun, roll down about 20 degrees more of flaps and if a little high, roll some more down, and if you have to–roll down all the flaps (60 degrees). If you are too low and will undershoot the field, don’t roll down so much flaps and give it a little throttle and then when you are about right, cut the gun and set it down.”

“Always have a 90 M.P.H. glide into the field. When you are about 10 feet off the field, start easing back on the stick and gradually nosing up for a three-point landing as the plane reaches the ground. If there is a little crosswind, drop the wing into the wind and give opposite rudder to keep plane going straight with the field. In other words, you are side slipping into the wind just enough to offset the drift. When you get close to the ground, lift up the wing, and keep plane straight and land. Then ease on a little brakes until slowed down to taxi speed, move stabilizer to neutral, put prop in high pitch, and roll up the flaps and taxi in to the line. You put on the brakes and lock them, throttle up, put mixture control to full lean and when the engine stops, ease throttle forward, cut switch, and lock controls.”

“Then fill out the Form #1 by putting in your name, time you took off and landed, etc. You have just taken a short ride in a BT. ha.”


  1. This is a good one. Dale was sure a handsome fella. I suppose his brothers understood all those details and directions.
    Thank you again for another family story.

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