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How We Got Pattern A and Pattern B
2007-10-12

How We Got Pattern A and Pattern B These patterns have been for many years a part of the Instrument Flying Handbook as among the first lessons in acquiring the aircraft control required for instrument flying. Prior to WWII few aircraft were equipped beyond an airspeed indicator, compass, altimeter, and at most a needle and ball.

During WWII the gyroscopic instruments began to be installed on all training aircraft. However, the use of these instruments was sadly neglected for two reasons. First, the instructors had mostly learned during an era of `seat of the pants, wind on the cheek' flying. Secondly, they were placarded to be caged during maneuvers. Until shortly before the end of the war, instrument instruction, was most cursory. A pilot would often be sent overseas with fewer than ten hours of instrument flight instruction and perhaps another ten in a Link Trainer.

Hundreds of pilots were lost because instrument skills were thought to be exclusively an airline pilot skill area. Airlines, viewing schedules as profits, had moved ahead in training and instrumentation. A good case could be made for the statement that more pilots were lost in WWII due to weather flying than due to combat. Hard at work to correct this situation was a Joe Duckworth. He learned to fly at Kelly field in the late twenties. As a reservist he flew with Eastern Airlines and had acquired thousands of hours of instrument time and an understanding of the importance of instrument flying. Shortly before the war began Duckworth returned to active duty. He was assigned as director for training at a multi-engine facility in Mississippi. Duckworth found flying was being taught as though there were no gyroscopic instruments.

Combat returns were indicating that weather constituted a life and death hazard comparable to combat. Duckworth initiated an instructional program which first evaluated flight instructors and secondly standardized teaching programs. The most immediate result was a 40% reduction in night flying accidents. The relationship between the absence of visual reference at night and instrument flying was quite apparent to Duckworth. "Needle, ball, and airspeed" was the original instrument system. From this, with the invention/installation of the artificial horizon and directional gyro, Duckworth developed attitude flying instruction based upon a scan of the full panel of instruments. The pilot first needed to learn to fly the aircraft performance envelope using the instruments. Then these skills were applied to the flight maneuvers required to fly the radio range stations of the day. To train pilots in flying this way Duckworth devised the "Pattern A", "Pattern B", and the "Vertical S". Duckworth had found a system that would enable survival in weather.

Next he developed a program for instructors. Their enthusiasm and acceptance of the attitude flying system soon began to be felt and heard throughout the training command. A head to head competition between the worst of Duckworth's students with the best of the "needle, ball and airspeed" students was held. The results convinced, General Hap Arnold the commander of the Air Force, to open an Instrument School just for instructors. Col. Duckworth became the commander of the base and its program. For the last two years of the war flight instructors were sent to Duckworth from all parts of the training command for a months duty. These instructors in turn would return to base and establish training programs for more instructors. By the end of the war no pilot was graduated from the Air Force Training Command who was not proficient as an instrument pilot.

Written by Gene Whitt

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