Instrument Flying

Heroes Remember

Normally when you're flying the air plane you fly with outside references. You can see the horizon. You can see what's up, what's down. You can see when the air plane are, when the wings aren't level, at (inaudible) or what have you. With instrument flying you sit in the back, there's a hood that encloses the whole area so that you cannot see out and the only references that you have to keep the air plane straight and level are the instruments in the cockpit. You have what's called an artificial horizon and you have a turning bank indicator. You have an air speed. You have a compass and instruments like that and then you have some navigation instruments. So you had to learn to fly the aircraft with reference to those instruments. And this required that you develop what's known as a cross check where you could not get fixation on an instrument. You couldn't look at the artificial horizon, for example, and not check the air speed or check the compass because you wouldn't know whether or not you were turning off heading or whether you were losing your air speed and so on. It's known, a proven fact, in civilian aviation that for those people who have never had instrument flight training, if they get into cloud where they can't see the horizon, they will be out of control. The air plane will be out of control within 30 seconds. And you've heard of people who inadvertently got into what they call instrument flight weather and they just lose control of the air plane because you don't know whether you're up, down, going straight up or straight down and very quickly, because if you're not an instrument pilot, you don't have a cross check. So you start to fixate on one thing to the exclusion of the others and that would really get you into trouble. So you would get under the hood and just after take off, initially after take off the instructor would raise the gear in the first couple of trips. As you progressed just after the air plane was off the ground, he would say, “You have control,” and it was yours. You selected the gear up, you selected the flaps up, made sure that you didn't hit the ground again because he was giving you control probably within 15-20 feet off the ground. So a moment's lapse of looking for the gear handle or something like that, you'd be back into the ground. And I mean, that became very important as we went on and later on we got onto the operational flying squadrons, because they were what's known as all weather squadrons. You had to be able to take off no matter what the weather was so you got to the point where you were so proficient on instruments that the weather could be zero-zero, you could line the aircraft up on the runway, making sure that it was on the centre line, check the compass and fly it down on the compass while you're still on the ground until you get air speed and went airborne and never look outside because there's nothing to see i f you're in a storm or in fog or anything like that so that was, the precursor was this instrument flying and the proficiency that you had to develop in that.

Mr. Peters gives a detailed account of training for instrument only flying, and how those skills suited Canada’s air role in NATO.

Walter Peters

Walter Peters, the youngest of six children, was born in Litchfield, Nova Scotia in 1937. A graduate of Mount Allison University, he worked for the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation before enlisting in the Royal Canadian Air Force at age twenty-four and entering pilot training. After receiving his commission and wings, Mr. Peters enjoyed a distinguished career on many levels. He was Canada’s first black jet fighter pilot and an A1 flying instructor. He was involved in the development of the Snowbirds and later flew with them. At Trenton, Mr. Peters piloted Hercules cargo aircraft on assorted missions around the globe, and it was here that he also became the Canadian Armed Forces’ first Human Rights Officer. As advisor to the United Nations Security Council, Mr. Peters offered advice on the tactical movement of troops by air, and analysed and briefed the Council after the Russian shootdown of a Korean civilian jet in 1983. He retired holding the rank of Major.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Walter Peters
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Air Force

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