A Jewish Pilot in the Land of Milk and Honey — Part 15

While British Air Force flying courses were divided into a Primary Training School of 100 hours flight-training and an Advanced Training School of 100 hours, totaling 200 hours flight-training, the American Air Force flying-course was divided into 3 flight-training-schools: Primary flight training of 70 hours flight-training: Basic training of 70 hours flight-training and Advanced flight -training of 70 hours. A total of 210 hours flight training.
Usually a full flight-course lasted a full year. But in 1944 the AAF lost a large number of pilots and needed even more pilots to serve in new additional squadrons which were supplied with a large number of new combat airplanes. The flying courses were then achieved in 6 months and later even in less time and were nicknamed: “crash-courses” not for reasons of reduced flight-safety but for reasons of lack of time.
In Israel, in 1948, the war which was named by the Jews: The War of Independence was raging and it became quite plain that without a sufficient and efficient Air Force it would not be won. Therefore there was no time for lengthy flying-courses and the one which was conducted in Bakersfield had to be contained in as little time as possible.
The lack of introduction to the cockpit and its flight controls, systems and instruments by Paul Calisi to a trainee who showed some basic knowledge of flying might have been the reason for his mistake. He started the engine and taxied to the runway , lining the airplane for take-off and said: “You have it, take-off!” I opened the throttle, the airplane started rolling and adding speed. I was trying to keep it straight on the centerline but it was swinging dangerously from left to right, almost off the runway. Calisi had to take over while shouting at me: “What the hell are you trying to do?” He performed the take-off then handed the controls back to me and to me to make a standard circuit and land which I did and to both Calisi’s and my own surprise I made a perfect circuit and a smooth three-point landing.
For 13 days my crazy and dangerous take-offs went-on with Calisi screaming at the back and taking over to do a safe take-off and then handing back the controls to me and getting perfect circuits and smooth three-point landings. As of the third day we flew away to the maneuvering area next to Minter where I practiced turns, steep-turns and stalls. On the 9th day I practiced spins and thus we reached the stage where after 12 days I was fit to go Solo and practice all these exercises by myself if it were not for my erratic and dangerous take-offs.
Paul Calisi was going berserk. He kept mumbling: “I know that I am mad, but I have system in my madness.” On March 12 we taxied to the take-off runway once more but this time Calisi did not get into his seat. Instead he stood on the gangway next to my seat, kept the cockpit canopy open and held to the structure dividing the two parts of the canopy and said: “Take-Off!” I pushed the throttle forward and started rolling, gaining speed and starting swinging dangerously to the left when I felt a very strong slap at the back of my head and Calisi stretched his arm and pulled the throttle back to idle shouting: “Where are you keeping your feet, you idiot!?! Put your feet down on the cockpit floor and away from the upper part of the rudder pedals!” It was then that I realized for the first time that I was pressing the hydraulic toe-brakes while trying to keep the airplane straight.
Calisi told me to taxi back to the parking line and next day he took me for 1 hour and 30 minutes of take-offs and landings. All my take-offs were straight and Calisi was finally satisfied. At the end of the 90 minutes he climbed out of his seat, made safe his seat-belt and getting off the airplane he waved me off saying: “Take-Off!” I made 3 perfect take-offs and landings while Paul Calisi was standing at the edge of the runway and musing to himself about this strange trainee.
We spent the next 5 days on emergency landings, cross-wind landings and take-offs and and lower airwork exercises and by the time I had 20 hours and 40 minutes Calisi decided that I would be able to start with some basic training and mix it with the rest of the Primary training which I till had to practice and so he took me to a basic training airplane: The Vultee BT13A with a 450 hp engine and a double-pitch propeller: coarse and fine pitch. While on the 23rd and 25th I flew 3 flights on the PT26 logging 5 hours of airwork, stalls and t.o & ldgs. on the 26th and 27 I flew 5 flights on the BT13A logging 5 hours  and going Solo after the first 2 hours and 30 minutes. I added one more flight on the PT26 at the end of this day practicing lower airwork for 1 hour and 10 minutes. on the 29th I flew the BT13A solo for 6 hours and 20 minutes practicing stalls, low airwork and take-offs and landings. Next day I went to Elynor and explained to her that the airplanes we had at that time in Israel were all light-airplanes and it would be practical to let us fly some light airplanes. I was therefore given a 1 hour dual flight on the Aeronca Champion with the 65h.p. engine.
On the last day of this month of March I had 4 flights. The first on a BT13A practicing stalls, steep-turns and slow-flying. The second was on a PT26 practicing steep-turns, stalls, spins and side-slips. I was then surprised when Elynor told me that although I had only a total of 49 hours on this course they decided to give me an indoctrination-flight on the twin-engined Cessna T-50 with the 2 x215hp Jacobs engines. It lasted 1 hour and 10 minutes and my instructor was Jim Kenealy who was the Chief Flight-Instructor of this flying-course. I ended  this first month of the course with 51 hours and 10 minutes practicing steep-turns, stalls, spins and pylon-8’s.

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