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1917 AARs...

January 5 2007 at 2:43 PM
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GyG  (Login Dick Gaines)
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5 January 2007


Note that some of the advice given in 1917 is still applicable today. The more things change the more they remain the same.

Subject: 1917 AAR's

The following safety tips from Daedalian Foundation
are excerpts from Royal Flying Corps monthly report of December 1917.

The report was signed C. St. John-Culbertson, Royal Flying Corps Colonel
and was dated 21 December, 1917.

Another good month. In all, a total of 35 accidents were reported, only
six of which were avoidable. These represented a marked improvement over
the month of November during which 84 accidents occurred, of which 23
were avoidable. This improvement, no doubt, is the result of experienced
pilots with over 100 hours in the air forming the backbone of all the


Avoidable Accidents

1. There were six avoidable accidents this last month.

a. The pilot of a Shorthorn, with over 7 hours of experience, seriously
damaged the undercarriage on landing. He had failed to land at as fast a
speed as possible as recommended in the Aviation Pocket Handbook

b. A B.E.2 stalled and crashed during an artillery exercise. The pilot
had been struck on the head by the semaphore of his observer who was
signaling to the gunners.

c. Another pilot in a B.E.2 failed to get airborne, by an error of
judgement, he was attempting to fly at mid-day instead of at the
recommended best lift periods, which are just after dawn and just before

d. A Longhorn pilot lost control and crashed in a bog near
Chipping-Sedbury. An error of skill on the part of the pilot in not
being able to control a machine with a wide speed band of 10 MPH between
top speed and stalling speed.

e. While low flying in a Shorthorn the pilot crashed into the top deck
of a horse drawn bus near Stonehenge.

f. A B.E.2 pilot was seen to be attempting a banked turn at a constant
height before he crashed. A grave error by an experienced pilot.

Unavoidable Accidents

2. There were 29 unavoidable accidents from which the following are

a. The top wing of a Camel fell off due to fatigue failure! of the flying
wires. A successful emergency landing was carried out.

b. Sixteen B.E.2's and 9 Shorthorns had complete engine failures. A
marked improvement over November's fatigue.

c. Pigeons destroyed a Camel and 2 Longhorns after mid-air strikes.


Accidents during the last three months of 1917 cost 317 pounds, 10
shillings sixpence, money down the drain and sufficient to buy new
gaiters and spurs for each and every pilot observer in the Service.


No. 1 Brief

No. 912 Squadron, 3 December 1917

Aircraft type B.E.2C, No. KY678, Total Solo - - 4.20 Pilot Lt. J.
Smyth-Worthington, Solo in type - - 1.10

The pilot of this flying machine attempted to maintain his altitude in a
turn at 2,500 feet. This resulted in the airplane entering an
unprecedented maneuver, entailing a considerable loss of height. Even
with full power applied and the control column fully back, the pilot was
unable to regain control. However, upon climbing from the cockpit onto
the lower mainplane, the pilot managed to correct the machi! nes ;altitude,
and by skillful manipulation of the flying wires successfully
side-slipped into a nearby meadow.

Remarks: Although, through inexperience, this pilot allowed his
aeroplane to enter an unusual attitude, his resourcefulness in
eventually landing without damage has earned him a unit citation.

R.F.C. Lundsford-Magnus is investigating the strange behaviour of this

No. 2 Brief

No. 847 Squadron 19 December 1917

Aircraft Type Spotter Balloon J17983, total solo 107.00 Pilot Capt. ***,
Solo in type 32.10

Capt * of the Hussars, a balloon observer, unfortunately allowed
the spike of his full-dress helmet to impinge against the envelope of
his balloon. There was a violent explosion and the balloon carried out a
series of fantastic and uncontrollable maneuvers, while rapidly emptying
itself of gas. The pilot was thrown clear and escaped injury as he was
lucky enough to land on his head.

Remarks This pilot was flying in full-dress uniform because he was the
Officer of the Day. In consequence it has been recommended that pilots
will not ! ;fly&nbs p;during periods of duty as Officer of the Day.

Captain* has requested an exchange posting to the Patroville Alps, a
well known mule unit of the Basques

No 3 Brief

Summary of No. 3 Brief dated October 1917

Major W. de Kitkag-Watney'Major W. de Kitkag-Watney'<wbr>s Neuport Scou
it failed to become airborne.

The original court of Inquiry found that the primary cause of the
accident was carelessness and poor airmanship on the part of a very
experienced pilot.

The Commandant General, however, not being wholly convinced that Major
de Kitkag-Watney could be guilty of so culpable a mistake ordered that
the court should be re-convened

After extensive inquiries and lengthy discussions with the Meteorlogical
Officer and Astronomer Royal, the Court came to the conclusion that the
pilot unfortunately was authorized to fly his aircraft on a day when
here was absolutely no lift in the air and could not be held responsible
for the accident.

The Court wishes to take this opportunity to extend congratulations to
Major de Kitkag-Watney on&n! bsp;his& nbsp;reprieve and also on his engagement to
the Commandant Gereral's daughter, which was announced shortly before
the accident


Horizontal Turns

To take a turn the pilot should always remember to sit upright,
otherwise he will increase the banking of the aeroplane. He should never
lean over.

Crash Precautions

Every pilot should understand the serious consequences of trying to turn
with the engine off. It is much safer to crash into a house when going
forward than to sideslip or stall a machine with engine trouble.

Passengers should always use safety belts, as the pilot may start
stunting without warning. Never release the belt while in the air, or
when nosed down to land.

Engine Noises

Upon the detection of a knock, grind, rattle or squeak, the engine
should be at once stopped. Knocking or grinding accompanied by a squeak
indicates binding and a lack of lubricant.


The First Marine Air Wing had this write up in their safety publication,
Wing Tips of an AAR board's&n! bsp;comments some 40 years ago:

It was conceded by all that the pilot had accomplished a brilliant piece
of work in landing his disabled machine without damage under the
circumstances. It is not with intent to reflect less credit upon his
airmanship, but it must be noted that he is a well experienced aviator
with over 40 total hours in the air, embracing a wide variety of
machines, and this was his seventh forced landing due to complete
failure of the engine.

It was doubly unfortunate that upon alighting from his machine he missed
the catwalk on the lower airfoil and plunged both legs through the
fabric, straddling a rib, from which he received a grievous personal injury.

Some thought should be devoted to a means of identifying
wing-traversing catwalks to assist aviators in disembarking from their
various machines.


R.W. "D1ck" Gaines
The Original
"Gunny G"
GnySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952- (Plt #437PISC)-'72
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