The occasion was the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, and hundreds of dignitaries and veterans had gathered in the warm weather for ceremonies at the National World War II Memorial.
At the beginning of the war, flight training lasted nine months, with three months of primary, three months of basic, and three months of advanced training. Each pilot had 65 flying hours of primary training and 75 hours of both basic and advanced training. During the war, each phase was reduced first to 10 weeks and then to nine weeks. Primary training was accomplished in aircraft such as the PT-17, PT-19, PT-22 and PT-23 while basic training took place in mostly in the BT-9, BT-13, BT-14 and BT-15. Advanced training for fighter pilots took place in the AT-6, and training for multi-engine aircraft occurred in the AT-9 and AT-10 aircraft. The AT-11 was used to train bombardiers and navigators.
- Boeing Stearman PT-17/N2S:
The fixed-gear biplane trained more military pilots, including Navy flier George H.W. Bush and the Tuskegee Airmen, than any other basic trainer in World War II.
- North American AT-6/SNJ
Army, Navy and Marine pilots learned how to dogfight and shoot in this single-engine advanced trainer, which also saw “action” in Hollywood movies about World War II, standing in for Japanese aircraft.
- Beech AT-11 Kansan:
Developed as a civilian transport aircraft, the two-engine plane was given a glassed-in nose and trained bombardiers and pilots for America’s bombers.
- Piper L-4 Grasshopper:
The military version of the famous Piper Cub flew for reconnaissance and artillery spotting missions, evacuated the wounded and transported supplies. Flying low and slow in France, it spotted German tanks and sometimes destroyed them with bazooka fire.
A tribute to the often ignored trainer aircraft that learned the heroes of the sky to fly
Trainer crash diorama in the Early Years Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)