School of Instruction
Royal Flying Corps
Acton W 3
18 Sept 1917
You ask me to tell you what it is like up in the air, but before I
start I want you to understand that the 50 h.p. machines here will
climb to only 300 ft with 2 passengers, and the 60 h.p. will climb to
only 3000 with two in them, and we can't use them solo (i.e. the '60
hps). The 50 are used for teaching "taking off" and
landing, and one does not go higher than 50 ft for this. They
are used for solo and will then climb over 2000 (the 60s are too
precious for soloists). I have been up in the 60 to 3000 only
twice and right at the beginning so I did not feel then as I do
now. I have done 3 1/2 hrs and of this about 40 minutes above
300ft., so I want more high work. They are about 1909 model and very
unstable so that we must fly them [carefully], so that the sensations
of an aeroplane have yet to come.
The difficulty when starting is to know and realise when the
ground has been left. One has the sensation of a very strong
wind on top of a ridge in NZ and this is continuous. After the
first flight this wind does not trouble you at all. When up at
about 3000 you can imagine yourself on a high hill, so I have not
lost myself yet. After a thousand feet the differences in the
size of things is hard to [notice], and the same coming down,
although you can see how small they do look. You have a look at the
[wires] and the [planes] and smile to yourself and feel as safe as a
house until the instructor lets go and then, at the beginning as I
was [then] you are frightened to move the controls enough
and the old buss is rather cranky, and you feel worse than it looks.
If one wing goes down only slightly, you feel it and for a start you
don't like the feeling at all, but one soon gets over that. It
is the same when banking, and your one desire is to level her out.
You can feel the nose go down, and then the engine is switched off
and the wind pressure seems to increase. The ground comes
slowly closer, and the air gets warmer all the way down. Landing is
not such a bad sensation as I imagined it would be, and it feels
impossible to hit hard as the [denser] air feels as if it is holding
It is quite surprising how safe you feel up there, with the
instructor, and I believe solo is a different matter entirely.
The weather last few days has been windy and we have no flying at
all, and I must say I don't mind as this place is too close to town
to [leave] in a hurry.
What I said about the Huns was that I thought they would be kind
and gentler to the Russians and try to get a separate peace that way,
but they have taken the other method.
I had better stop now or write a book.
Your loving son