Navigation Equipment

Item set


Navigation Equipment


A collection of various tools, instruments and items used for navigation by aircrews.

Before the outbreak of the Second World War navigation duties were shared between pilot and co-pilot, the latter doing most of the navigating and less of the flying. Prior to 1942 there were no non-pilot navigators. The air Observer role was developed during the Second World War, and included an extensive list of duties. The most challenging task was to master dead reckoning - a complex process which required careful calculations, accurate measurement, and general rules by which navigating without the use of any external aid could determine the position of an aircraft in flight and plot its course from one point to another. Course work for navigators was done both in classrooms as well as in the air, the air time being crucial as trainees needed to demonstrate how well they could measure speed, time, and distance when plotting a course. What could be done in the comfort of a classroom was made uncomfortable once the trainee was within a military aircraft, contending with hot or cold temperatures, nausea, noise and eventually danger.
Non-navigational subjects for air observers included meteorology, aircraft recognition, current affairs, physical training, Morse Code, as well as training in gunnery and bombing. With the appointment of Air Marshal Arthur Harris as Commander-in-Chief in February 1942, the realization of overworked air observer resulted in Harris’ addition of the air bomber.
Following this was the training of specialist navigators within the BCATP beginning in June 1942, and the training of observers was gradually phased out by October. The syllabus for navigators was similar to the observers however the bombing and gunnery portion was removed and less emphasis was placed on Morse Code, the course was extended from twelve weeks to twenty, and the passing standard was raised. As a result the attrition rate among student navigators rose from eleven to seventeen percent, weeding out borderline and those students with incurable airsickness.




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