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Robert Tipper

Born in Alberta, Sergeant Pilot Tipper attended Manning Depot (MD) and Initial Training School (ITS) in Edmonton. He remained in the province, receiving his elementary flying training in High River before moving on to advanced training out of Alberta. In this excerpt, he describes some of the more typical aspects of Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) in Alberta.


When I was 18, I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)....We arrived at No. 3 Manning Depot after dark and settled in. It turned out that it was located on the old Edmonton exhibition grounds and all the old horse barns etc. had been converted to barracks. We went through stores and received uniforms. As it was still summer, we were forced to wear the khaki drill outfits, which never seemed to stay pressed. 

Three weeks at Manning Depot consisted mainly of drilling, going on very long route marches and lining up for shots. It was also very important that all RCAF personnel knew how to swim. If you happened to be among the non-swimmers, you could go swimming every afternoon, or at least every second afternoon. I'm not sure why there was such a policy since I was sure that many of the fellows in our group, or flight, as it was called, would be ending up as ground crew doing general duties and may not ever go near an ocean their entire career.

R.W. Tipper and classmates. After about a month at Manning Depot, some of us were transferred to No. 4 Initial Training School (ITS) located at the University of Alberta just across the river. We were quartered in what was known as Assiniboia Hall and ate our meals in Athabasca Hall. Classes were held in the education building, at the other end of the campus. We were marched there every day, both mornings and afternoons. It was getting into early fall, and I can still recall the wheat stocks that we paraded through to get to class. There wasn't much between the medical building and the education building, except the university farm...

At No. 4 ITS, we took the kinds of courses all potential aircrew had to take. There were classes on engines, airmanship, Morse code, navigation, meteorology, aircraft recognition and so on. It was essentially ground school for aircrew...

As a potential pilot, I was given a week of leave pending a posting to High River, Alberta. It was still later in the fall when I reached No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) High River for my first shot at flying training. The school was basically civilian run. Even the Commanding Officer was a civilian. Of course, we students and our instructors were not civilians. 

The school maintained a very sensible schedule. Our group was split into two groups. One would take ground school in the afternoon and the following morning while the other half flew. Then, the roles switched. The second group would take ground school in the afternoon and again in the morning while the other half flew. I can still remember my first flight in a Cornell aircraft. The Cornell was a small, two- seater (tandem) with a fixed undercarriage. It had an in-line Ranger engine (about 200 horsepower). I remember during that first flight, which was laughingly called "familiarization," I wasn't relaxed at all. All I could think about was that within eight hours I could very well be up in the air, alone in this thing. At one stage of the flight, my instructor, who was in the back seat, turned over the controls to me and I was allowed to "stir the pudding" so to speak. And stir it I did. It was amazing, even at the relatively slow speed we were flying, how sensitive the controls were...

I think that after the first solo flight, the next five or six hours was spent on the circuit. I recall one day while I was making what should have been a routine landing, the aircraft developed a mind of its own and took a wild swing to the left. In fact, I was off the runway entirely and stuck in some fireguard plowing that was underway at the time. The plough operator hopped off his machine, gave me a push and I was on my way again. When I went to take off again, a fellow came running out of the control tower at the end of the runway and told me to go back to the hangar, where a qualified mechanic would check out the aircraft before I took off again. He said I had just completed a "ground loop." That was my first experience with one. On arriving back at the hangar, my instructor was waiting to hear my account of what had happened and I was quickly given a couple of dual landings before I was allowed to go solo again.

The rest of my stay at High River was fairly uneventful, except for the day I strayed a little too far south. I think I was south of Vulcan, somewhere, when I thought I should check the gas situation. The gauges were out on the wing and were easily readable. Both wing gauges read plumb empty. I immediately leaned out my gasoline mixture as much as I dared and kept flying north until High River was in sight. At this point, it seemed fairly obvious that I would land okay. My next worry was running out of gas somewhere between the end of the landing run and the hangar. That would be embarrassing. All my worries were for naught. The only incident to occur was in the flight room putting my gear away. A ground crew type sauntered in and asked me if I had been flying the plane that just landed. When I admitted to flying it his only comment was, "You didn't have much gas left did you?"

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