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New gate guard commemorates 100th anniversary of School of Special Flying

Posted 1 November 2017 · Add Comment

A new gate guard was recently unveiled at HMS Sultan in order to mark the centenary of one of the most significant events in military aviation history which took place on the site 100 years ago.



Above: (left to right) CPO Lambert, LT Doyle, Cdr Selway and Capt Towell.
Courtesy Royal Navy / Crown Copyright


Air Engineering Officers and Technicians from the Defence College of Technical Training’s Royal Naval Air Engineering and Survival Equipment School (RNAESS) invited the Commanding Officer of HMS Sultan, Captain Peter Towell, to cut the ribbon on the Royal Navy Gazelle which had been especially installed to commemorate the formation of the School of Special Flying.

In August 1917, 1(Reserve) Squadron became the School of Special Flying - a unit to teach instructors.

Lt Col Robert Smith-Barry taught his students to explore the aircraft’s capabilities and to learn the cause and effect of any movement in the air instead of avoiding dangerous manoeuvres, such as spins, they were taught how to get out of them safely and, by so doing, developed the skill and confidence to fly their aircraft to the limit.

The pilots produced during the experiment were trained so quickly and to such a high standard that Smith-Barry’s methods were immediately adopted by the Royal Flying Corps. In time, Smith-Barry’s training revolution was embraced by most other air forces and his ideas have relevance today.
Courtesy Royal Navy / Crown Copyright


Diaries from the time record just some of the impact of the events from the time. On 10th September 1917, Wing Commander G.H. Lewis DFC wrote: “What really happens here is super instruction.

"Some clever people here have devised a very sound system of instruction and to standardize this in the Flying Corps they train other instructors. It is mostly for dual control.

"They have got at the theory of the whole thing and instead of flying in a slip-shed fashion that most of us taught ourselves to do, you learn exactly what you are doing, and why you do it, so that we can teach others the same sort of thing.”

RNAESS Chief Petty Officer Andrew ‘ Larry’ Lambert who together with Lt Michael Doyle oversaw the project said: “We chose a Gazelle Aircraft as it was a Fleet Air Arm aircraft which was used for training aircrew and what was taught here 100 years ago now forms the basis of all flight training across the World.”

“What was taught then mimics exactly what we deliver here now, except that we do it from an engineering position; we teach the theory of how aircraft work and how to maintain them.”

“It was important for us to try and commemorate the history of the site, which was Grange Airfield and is now HMS Sultan.

"We’re really grateful to the Aircraft Maintenance Section within the RNAESS who managed to restore it and having it on a raised platform is also really nice as it means that it’s visible to not only those working within the Establishment but also the general public too.”
 

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