Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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Well, Ens. Marsh showed me how everything worked as well as how differently such a “large” and “heavy” plane reacted “upstairs.” Somehow I got by the check without any trouble, and I may say soloing the SNJ for the first time was even more of a thrill than my first solo solo in an N3N had been. A wonderfully smooth plane to fly, the SNJ was and is both very reliable and very maneuverable and perhaps still, in 1945, the finest training plane ever manufactured.

Going soon into OS2U land planes (“Kingfishers” with fixed landing gear instead of floats) was something of a let down, even in horse power (about 100). OS2Us were, however, adequate for what they were then used for—intermediate formation work. Though slower and clumsier than SNJs and terrible to taxi, they were really very easy to fly and seemed practicallly to land themselves. After the usual dual instruction, check (only one “up” needed in this squadron) and solo came three and eventually nine plane formations. 9 plane
I may say the latter did seem pretty tricky, especially when one was one of the last men in a nine plane echelon. It really was a pleasure, however, to go through a squadron without a “down.”

By this time I had finished all the regular ground school courses and thus became a first class cadet, first class
with the privilege, at least after the various code tests had been passed, of going ashore any or every night. Sighs of relief were frequent about this time—late May and early June. No more studying at night being necessary there were any number of chances to go “ashore.” Though gas rationing had set in and made rides other than by a very crowded bus seldom available, an occasional steak in town, more often than not followed by a movie, was a good way to relieve the monotony. Movies on the base were now also available every night, for the first time since before we started ground school, and the library could be really used for a change. I found myself concentrating on certain authors, authors
notably Cronin, Forester and Hilton, and reading everything available by them, but I enjoyed a rereading of “Pride and Prejudice” as much as anything then.

The next flying came in Squadron 13, the instrument flying squadron and the last all cadets instrument
went through automatically. As far as the students were concerned, all flying was done under the hood on instruments in this squadron, half in Link trainers and half in the back seat of SNJs with one’s instructor in the front cockpit of the latter. Besides instructing one and demonstrating the various maneuvers, he was there to make all landings and take offs and to take over in any emergencies.

It so happened that I had most if not all of my Link hops before those in the real plane, though the two were supposed to go along alternating. Flying the Link seemed both peculiar and difficult at first. Going on instruments entirely was itself new, and the controls, with no wind resistance or other effects on the toylike airfoils, felt “flabby” or something of the sort. The instruments that were stressed the most were the needle and ball (or turn and bank indicator) and the airspeed indicator, but the altimeter should have been considered fully as important. We also used the rate of climb indicator, the magnetic and gyro compasses and the various engine instruments such as the tachometer and the manifold pressure gauge, which indicated the R.P.M of the propellor and thus roughly its pitch, and the power being used, respectively, others like the fuel and oil pressure gauges, the oil temperature and cylinder head temperature gauges merely indicating whether or not the engine was behaving properly.