Although England, like the United States, was late in establishing the glider as an integral part of the war machine, her Airborne Division training program is reported making unusual progress.
One factor behind this progress is said to be the widespread use of the Hotspur II glider, now being produced in quantity by General Aircraft Ltd, since the training and operational craft are basically the same. About the only change made to convert it to a training craft was an alteration in the cockpit canopy.
An interesting feature is the Hotspur's landing gear, a combination of twin wheels and the familiar skid. Students learn to land on the wheels as though the craft had tricycle landing gear but, since their are no brakes, the nose is tilted down to stop the roll. Although the glider thus appears to be “rooting" its nose into the ground the skid prevents damage. The wheels can be jettisoned in event of a landing in rough territory. Split flaps help cut down the landing speed.
Although details on the Hotspur's capacity are restricted, it is apparent that a large cargo either personnel or equipment can be moved, for it has a wing span of 45' 10¾", and a length of 39' 8¾". It is interesting to note that there are two entrances, one on the right side just forward of the mid-wing and one just aft of the wing on the left side.
Under the British Airborne troop training program, all glider pilots are selected from the Army, with most of the men being corporals and sergeants, but with some commissioned officers, all of whom have volunteered for the service. First flight training is given in power planes at an RAF flying training school, the course being almost identical to that for RAF pilots except for greater emphasis on precision and dead stick landings.
Students are then transferred to a glider school and immediately start on towed flights. Cast-offs from the tow plane are made at varying altitudes and different approaches are made to the field, including one in which the student dives steeply to gain speed, then hedge hops sometimes out of sight of the landing area to a landing on the field. Finally, formation flying, both on tow and in the glide, are learned before the students are sent to a glider operational training unit which leads to membership in the Airborne Division.
This article was originally published in the September, 1942, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 41, no 9, p 203.