Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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The first thing to learn was to keep the needle and ball in the center during level flight, but to turn with the proper amount of bank by coordinating rudder and ailerons so that the ball still stayed in the center and didn’t indicate a slip, or too much bank for the amount of turn, or a skid, just the opposite, the ball going to the inside in the first case, to the outside in the other case. Prior to this stage the turn and bank indicator served principally as a check to flying “by the seat of one’s pants,” pretty much the same thing as going along with visual reference to the horizon, though there is some “feel” to it too. Now we had to try and ignore all “feel,” it being unreliable under the hood, and do everything on instruments, trusting them even when they seemed wrong, which they never were. Eventually in both link and SNJ we learned how to fly beams, radio
real ones to places such as Lake City and Daytona being used in the case of planes. I don’t believe I realized at the time that the beams were merely narrow portions of the radio range where the “dah dits” of the N signals and the “dit dahs” of the A signals overlapped. Usually if not always there were two N quadrants opposite each other and two A quadrants similarly arranged, which meant that there were four beams. All quadrants and beams of course converged at the radio station, though directly over the latter was a cone of silence. Up to the cone all signals got gradually louder, and each station had a special signal which interrupted the others at regular intervals. Following the beams in would have been very difficult if we hadn’t had diagrams of all nearby stations’ radio ranges, especially as at considerable distances even the beams are pretty wide. The big thing was “hitting” the cone of silence, and though we went part way through a let-down procedure, supposedly far enough to break through most overcasts, we never, of course, made instrument landings, which have never been perfected. It wasn’t until a later course that we even made instrument take-offs. Squadron 13 was in the end not difficult to get through, though I remember my instructor saying I was lucky to hit the cone the way I had been going.

After the instrument squadron was passed through, some of the boys went to Miami for carrier plane training, the majority never to be seen again by any one of their old friends. The remainder either went to Squadron 14, the small observation-scout seaplane squadron, or Squadron 15, the large seaplane squadron, both right by the St. John’s river on the main station at Jacksonville. I went to the former of these, my second choice in the way of final training, though I had wanted to fly the PBYs of the other as first choice.

Our planes were OS2U seaplanes or Kingfishers, then the standard cruiser-based planes of the fleet, though before we could fly them , we had to go through a short period in N3Ns, N3N
identical to those at Squantum except for the floats (one large and two small) instead of wheels. These little seaplanes were lots of fun to , but did give me my final bit of trouble as a cadet. Besides doing the same exercises as in landplanes we practiced “buoy shots,” or spot landings close to buoys, the approaches, however, made almost in level flight and with enough power to keep just above stalling speed. These were, in effect, simulated cast recoveries, or approaches to landings beside cruisers, but in the simplest form. My instructor, Lt. Schecter, seemed especially nice, but I didn’t do well by him at all. As usual we had to be checked, and though in my first I went through all the routine exercises all right, I had to spoil it all by starting to land cross-wind on my final landing, the check pilot then taking over with something like: “That won’t do at all.” The trouble was the wind had changed, and I didn’t notice it at first, but it’s quite likely I should have and gone around again for a better approach if he had let me go a little further. Good old squadron time followed when I muffed a second check by losing too much airspeed in turns. That, however, was my last “down,” two “ups,” the second with the only lieutenant of the four check pilots (the rest being lieutenant commanders), the severe and very fussy Lt. Jones graduating me to Kingfishers, that is after a little soloing and then formation flying.