Train to be a World War II bomber

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by A.V., Mar 13, 2011.

  1. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

    Feb 16, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Moscow, russia
    Organiser Taigh Ramey offers an insider’s account of a unique warbird event that enables today's pilots to experience what it would have been like to train in World War II to become bomber crewmen, with real W.W.II style food, barracks, ground gunnery training, classroom lessons and finally live air firing and bombing.

    This past June we completed our 2010 Bomber Camp put on by the Stockton Field Aviation Museum as a fund raiser for the Colling’s Foundation. It was a great success and the campers had a wonderful time. As it grows in popularity, I intend to do this around the country, especially at surviving WWII air bases. The goal is that you will see nothing out of place in a completely authentic setting.

    We are fortunate to have the best Ground Crew Living History group led by Captain Bill Gaston. These guys truly live the part, and also come up a week early to get things set up. This year Ricky Clausen took the WWII tech manual on cooking and made authentic GI meals. While the recipes were straight from the book, Ricky put in his personal touch. I especially liked the SPAM and eggs; man it was good. Well done Ricky!

    Day one begins with indoctrination and ground school where the students learn the basics of Radio, Navigation, Bombing and Gunnery. After ground school it’s off to the gunnery range where the students learn how to shoot everything from the .45 automatic to the awesome .50 cal. Students try their skills at shooting skeet from the turret training truck, just like they did back in WWII.

    All of the training is set up to prepare the student to fly a simulated mission in the B-24. During the mission the students are able to try out each crew position in the B-24, including running the ball turret, shooting blanks with a .50 cal machine gun from the open waist window, and even dropping bombs. It is a real kick to be able to do this.
    I used to get good information from WWII bombardiers and instructors, but sadly they are disappearing now. I have been using the manuals and training films, but nothing beats plain old practice. I will get another Beech AT-11 running, and will use this, along with the old style ground simulator which will be a big help.

    We dropped four bombs on each flight. A single bomb on two individual runs and a double drop on the last run. Our bombing results were not so good this year compared to the last two years. We went in at a lower altitude, and as a result things happen quicker with the Norden. I found out later that the winds were stronger and gave us a lower ground speed so most of the bombs hit short. It would also be a big help if I could practice more than one day a year...

    Jimmy Ricketts flew Dave Statham’s Stinson L-5 for range safety and bomb spotting. Using the L-5 for exactly what it was designed for was a real kick. The Norden bombsight is set up using the original ballistics tables and calculations for expected conditions.
    This year the automatic release system in the bomb sight head decided to go unserviceable, so we used the manual-electrical release system. I will use this system anyway when the students are up in the nose so they can release the bomb or bombs themselves. Manually pushing the button introduces its own errors too, as it cannot match the release system in the Norden’s computer.

    The Ballistic Tables came from eBay in one wonderful lot that had books for all of the WWII air drop ordnance. We made castings of a real 250 lb GP bomb and made wood fins as close to the original as possible, but I am sure the ballistics are not perfect for our concrete replicas.

    The information entered into the Norden sight was ‘Trail’ (the amount the bomb will lag behind the aircraft as it travels through the air mass); ‘Disc Speed’ (which is basically ground speed expressed in RPM, and controls the motor that drives the optics so the fore and aft cross hair will be synchronized on the target), and also the tangent of the dropping angle. Once on the run you need to make adjustments to get both cross hairs synchronized on the target with both rate and drift killed.
    Once this is done, it is a matter of the sighting angle matching the dropping angle, which is where the bombs are released.

    We used 2,000 ft above ground level (AGL) which came out to 2,265 mean sea level (MSL). I had to direct our pilots Jim Harley and ‘Pappy’ (Jim Goulsby) on the run because they couldn’t see the target at all, once they began their bomb run, as the visibility of the target over the nose of the B-24 is terrible. I just gave them ‘left’ and ‘right’ corrections.
    I wish we had the C-1 autopilot installed and working as it would sure help. I have the parts to do this, but it will be a big project and finding the time to do it is hard especially while the aircraft are on the road. Since we don’t have the C-1 we use the PDI (‘Pilot Directional Indicator’, which provides direction from the bombardier to the pilot) and mostly verbal lateral commands. I remember on one bomb run last year, I asked Pappy for a two degree turn right and he said “TWO DEGREES? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!”. My reply was “Okay then, 10 degrees right, and eight degrees left!”

    Future plans
    And the future? Taigh adds: “I would really like to do an ‘Atomic Bomber Camp’. I would love to see Boeing B-29s Fifi or Doc at Wendover over the loading pit shooting the tail guns into the gun butt. I have almost all of the parts to complete the tail turret which would easily install in one of the B-29’s. All I am missing are the amplidynes. I have two electrical engineering folks helping to come up with solid state replacements, but can anyone else help?”

    In the shorter term, though: “My vision is to use both the B-17 and the B-24 together, in loose formation, for a simultaneous drop. Mark Rouch at Top Gun Aviation and I spent a couple of weeks at Gary Norville’s shop working on the bomb racks, bomb door safety and firing circuits. It all works, and B-17 Nine-O-Nine is just about ready. The ball turrets on both aircraft are in need of major surgery to get them back into full operation – not to mention all of the other turrets, but that’s the plan.”
    Hopefully we can get Gary and his crack crew to perform the needed surgery on the turrets.

    Many thanks
    I have been wanting to do this for a while and this dream came true because of a long list of people willing to volunteer their time and expertise to pull it all together. From the Collings Foundation letting us set up their bombers to the Arizona Gang, Ricky the cook and so many others who made this one special event.

    The great thing is how the camp just keeps getting better each year. One of our students returned from the previous year and he said that it was like attending two different camps because of all the improvements. I have a feeling he will be coming back next year.

    I mentioned to Rob Collings that I would like to rip the wing tanks out of the P-51C and put gun bays and bomb racks back in her and Rob didn’t seem to mind the idea. I’ve got to say Rob has a wonderful attitude about the aircraft and making them as authentic as possible. He is all for putting the gear back in and making it all work.
    My hat is off to the guy for all of his support. I also want to thank all of the other Collings crew for their help too. ‘Pappy’ (Jim Goulsby) was our Navigation Instructor as well as one of the pilots. He still has a Navigator’s rating on his FAA licence, which is neat. Jason was a great help too, along with ‘Neon’ (Jim Harley)’s flying skills all helped to make the mission a success. Thanks to all of you who have helped make this an unforgettable experience, not only for the students, but for us too.

    The pilot’s view: Jim Harley, B-24 pilot
    “We had a great time! Thanks again from all of us to Taigh for his efforts. Roger did a great job with the photos, it’s still a toss up which is more fun - being on the bomber or shooting photos! It’s amazing to feel the airplane shake when that 50 calibre machine gun lights off. I can only imagine what it felt like with all of them going. The target was perfect this year.

    “The target itself was very well laid out on the ground and consisted of a large cross with the longest line being that of the heading needed to over fly the target in the proper direction. In the centre of the cross was a large white painted area that was used for Taighs’ aiming area.
    From his tables Taigh gave us parameters to fly within, I think they were 165mph at 2260 ft, give or take – especially give or take with a B-24! The first crew did three dry runs on the target then the three drop runs. On the second flight I think we did a total of four passes. It’s amazing the level of concentration you need to hold course, altitude and speed AND watch the PDI gauge.

    “I can say I had the advantage of flying co-pilot on the first round, it made flying from the left seat really easy on the second flight. You CANNOT see the target once you roll out on heading, so communication between Taigh and I was key to alignment of the target.

    “The briefing was focused on safety. We had people on the ground and the L-Birds spotting for us between drops to ensure a clear drop zone. We also had a trained crew on board to ensure the safety of the passengers during the bomb-bay door opening.

    Every year has been a learning experience, but it keeps getting better and better.”
  3. Nonynon

    Nonynon Regular Member

    Mar 13, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Those simulator's are really something. I hear today flying a plane isn't the same as it was back then because computers today do most of the job and the pilot is just like another computer. When you fly those simulators you know can notice that. Now its the best plan wins, not the best pilot.
    Btw until around 30 years ago some ww2 bomber planes were still used here and there, my father for example used to fly a Dakota plane in the IAF (Israeli Air Force).
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2011
  4. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

    Dec 17, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Yeah, back then you had to be able to read a compass, map and sextant. Half the pilots out there are lost if their GPS fails.

Share This Page