|VRF-1 "Stork" Insignia 1943-45 . Photo of leather patch sewn on pilot's flight jackets.
"A be-goggled, red-white-and-blue, streamlined stork, winging across a map of North America carrying a F6F 'baby' is
the flashy new squadron insignia adopted by Ferry units at NAS, NY. The insignia has been officially approved by the Bureau
Ferry Command personnel are showing the stork insignia on automobile windshields, luggage, and on airplanes permanently
assigned to the field. In addition, a large number of full-color leather labels are being prepared in the Ferry Chart Room.
They will be sewed on the jackets of officers and men."
From "Skyscrapers" Vol. 1, No. 46, June 10, 1944; Weekly news magazine of US Naval Air Station New York.
Click here to view "FERRY PILOT PROCEDURE - IN BRIEF" from 1944
Click here for Lesson Plan: "Floyd Bennett Field: Naval Aviation's Home in Brooklyn"
DELIVERS THE AIRPLANES
From "Naval Aviation News" July 1, 1944
From a staff of 10 pilots who ferried planes in their spare time evenings back in 1941, the Naval Air Ferry Command has grown
until it now has a thousand pilots who fly everything from fighter planes to big four-engine Liberators from coast to coast.
The ferry squadrons can fly anything with wings, at a few hours' notice, to the four corners of the nation, Canada or
overseas. Most of its operations are in continental U. S., but special ferrying jobs sometimes take its pilots to South America
or ocean bases.
To keep such a heavy flow of air traffic moving smoothly with a minimum of accidents requires constant pressure on safety
and proper pilot procedures. NANews reproduces on these pages information on correct procedure, which is stressed with all
ferry pilots. Much of the advice is applicable to all Navy pilots since it involves proper methods to use in any flying, cross-country
or merely around an air base while training.
Beginnings of the Naval Air Ferry Command, which is now under the Naval Air Transport Service, were modest. For example,
the work at NAS New York was done back in 1941 by reserve pilots who instructed day times and ferried evenings and weekends.
They drove their private cars to nearby Grumman plant, picked up s Wildcat fighters and ferried them back to the station.
Fleet units picked up the planes there. Principal types flown then were Kingfishers, Brewster Buffalos, Wildcats and the Grumman
Goose. Flying personnel of the Aircraft Delivery Units later became the Ferry Command on December 1, 1943.
Part-time ferry piloting was expanded when half a dozen naval aviators were called in to help carry the load.
FERRY PILOTS FLY OUT NEW PLANES AND BRING BACK THE BATTLE-WORN
Because of the large number of Navy planes being turned out today, the huge ferry squadrons, largest in naval aviation, are
kept busy most of the time flying new fighters and bombers to the west coast and bringing back battle worn fighters, SBD's
and other types, or new planes built on the Pacific slope.
This diversity of types requires that ferry pilots know how to fly many kinds of airplanes. Besides the F6F, F4U, TBF
and SBD, the most common types flown, ferry squadrons also are called on to deliver such others as J4F, JRF, J2F, F3A, FM,
TBM, SB2A, PV, SB2C, FG, R4D, GH, PBJ, JM, SBW, TDR, SNV, BTD, N2S, F4F, F7F, PBY and PB4Y But pilots naturally cannot be
masters of all kinds of planes.
PILOTS FLY MILLIONS OF MILES YEARLY KEEPING FLEET SUPPLIED
Major transcontinental and coastal ferry routes are laid out with frequent airports designated as stops. At these places,
ferry service units or auxiliary FSU's are located to keep the planes serviced and in flying trim. The tremendous scope of
naval aviation today is best indicated by the fact that the Ferry Command's pilots in VRF-1 alone have flown 15,000,000 miles
on actual ferry trips, not counting checkout flights or tests which pilots may take to familiarize themselves with the particular
plane they may be ferrying. Training of some ferry pilots is done at NAS Willow Grove Pa., where they spend a month refreshing
themselves on engines, ground work and plane checkouts, and generally getting themselves ready for the job of ferrying planes.
SAFETY OF AIRPLANES AND PILOTS REQUIRES ADHERENCE TO RULES
Pilots' lives are valuable and airplanes are expensive, so constant pressure is maintained by the Ferry Command on safety
and observation of proper flying procedures. Younger, inexperienced pilots sometimes have a tendency to break formations,
flat-hat and commit other breaches of aerial etiquette.
To encourage safety-consciousness, VRF-1 maintains in its ready room at NAS New York a "Glory Board" listing
names of pilots with outstanding records. A pilot who completes five transcontinental flights, or the equivalent 13,500 miles
in coastal hops, without accident, has a gold pair of Navy wings after his name. Twenty-five flights entitle him to a "stork,"
insignia of the squadron. The board at present has 194 members listed, with 124 boasting one or more "storks." Champion
pilot of the squadron has completed 92 transcontinental trips, a total of 276,000 miles, without accident.
If a plane is slightly damaged during its delivery flight and can be repaired and continue the flight, the pilot will
not get credit for the trip. If it sustained major damage, the pilot loses credit for that flight, plus one other to set him
back. Delivery of 25 airplanes without any damage wins a special merit award or a "medallion."
The Ferry Command transports thousands of military personnel-Army, Navy or Marine alike-on leave or on orders.
This carrying of passengers resulted in a unique experience for one ferry pilot flying a TBF on the west coast some time
back. After taking aboard an enlisted man as passenger, he found his inter-communication system did not work.
He instructed the sailor to tie a rope around his leg and to bail out if he should jerk on it in case of emergency. Out
over the desert the cockpit enclosure started to fly off and the pilot seized the rope to tie it down.
When the pilot landed the TBF at the next station, there was no sailor aboard. Search was launched and he was found, none
the worse for his parachute jump except for a cut on the head. He had bailed out in the South Pacific on past occasions and
had not stopped to argue when the ferry pilot jerked the rope while lashing down the enclosure.
FERRY SQUADRONS HAVE MANY MEN WITH LONG RECORDS IN AVIATION
Who are the ferry pilots? Calling the roll on VRF-1, for instance, would reveal such widely divergent experience as skywriters,
commercial airline pilots, barnstormers, plane salesmen, lawyers, CAA pilots, aviation cadets right out of Pensacola or Corpus
Christi, aerial circus fliers test pilots and graduates of operational training. Many ferry pilots are former fighter or bomber
pilots with the RAF or RCAF who returned to the services of the United States.
The nucleus of Ferry Command is composed of men with long experience flying, some with as much as 20 years. The commander
of VRF-1, for instance, has over 8,000 flying hours. Some are nearly 50 years old, with the average age in the 30's. Frequently,
when a rush job of ferrying arises, a few score of comparatively green pilots are borrowed to fly fighters to the west coast
or do whatever needs to get the job done in a hurry. It is among this group-pilots whose eyes are on the Central Pacific where
they are headed instead of on the instrument board of the plane they are flying-that many of the Ferry Command's accidents
The more experienced men are the lead pilots, with the younger men following them, but the older pilots still think they
can hold their own in combat. Recently VRF-1 polled its men and more than 100 volunteered to form a fighter squadron for active
duty in the Pacific.
The plan was not carried out in this manner when it was found impractical to keep them together as a fighting unit-the
idea being to test whether the "graybeards" would be good fighter pilots because of their long experience with handling
planes and meeting all conditions of aerology and the enemy, but 20 of them are being sent to operational training for this
Although they have many hours in the air, pilots are not allowed to lose touch with aviation progress. Instrument work
is given constantly in the air or in Link trainers. All ferry flying, however, is contact.
Three naval air stations are the main operating bases of the Ferry Command-NAS New York, home of VRF-1; NAS Columbus,
where VRF-2 is based, and NAS San Pedro, where VRF-3 is located. VRS-1 is based at New York, [and VRF-4 at NAS New York].
FLIGHT DISCIPLINE IS VITAL IF THE FERRYING JOB IS TO BE DONE
In the early days of ferrying, flights consisted of five or six planes in formation, but today there usually are only three-a
lead pilot with two follow pilots behind him in a loose v. To qualify as a lead pilot, an aviator has to have made at least
six transcontinental trips.
Pilots assigned to VHF'S are classified as senior ferry pilots, lead pilots, single pilots and follow pilots, according
to their experience and their ability to deliver planes undamaged and on schedule. Each classification has its set of qualifications.
For ferrying purposes, the United States is divided into an eastern and western zone, with the Mississippi River the boundary.
Transcontinental ferry flights go by several alternate routes to Texas and west by the southern route. Ferry service units
are located all along the routes, with auxiliary units at smaller airports, to keep the planes in operating order. FSU's are
at Knoxville, Fort Worth, Little Rock, Lynchburg, El Paso, Tucson, Petersburg, Va., Red Bluff, Calif., and Spartanburg, S.C.
AFSU's are at Tulsa, Midland, Tex.; Shreveport, and Madera, Calif. Routes also extend into Canada and north-south on both
Cross-country flights entail considerably more paper work than is encountered by short hops around a naval air station,
at the start, during the flight and when it is completed.
The pilot's pre-departure hours are filled with checking maps, radio frequencies, collecting gear and chutes, cross-country
packets - with damage reports, bills of lading and supply and service forms, instructing passengers and finally checking?out
on the plane to be ferried to learn its peculiarities, fuel system and consumption. Confidential gear and plane equipment
have to be under guard at all times, either by the pilot himself or station police.
Ferry flights usually start about 0900 and are supposed to be completed for the day by sunset. Strict adherence to flight
rules and CAA airway regulations while flying cross-country are necessary to insure a minimum of accidents. One squadron found
that men right out of flight training made the poorest ferry pilots, many fatal accidents resulting.
FLAT-HATTING IS WORST SIN FOR PILOTS; ONE RISKS KILLING SELF
Constant attention to the little details of flying are necessary to keep down the accident total in ferry flights, just as
it is with smaller operations. Before taking off, the tower must be checked for clearance. In the air, the flight plan filed
with airways authorities must be adhered to and proper use of radio followed.
Instrument flight is barred and flat-hatting is an unpardonable sin. One ferry pilot broke formation, buzzed his home
in Texas and crashed his plane, killing himself. Steep climbs on take-off and racing between ferry stops are on the list of
Some ferry pilots have had to be warned about flying too close to transport aircraft, others because they taxied too fast
or failed to S-turn to improve visibility. A third of all accidents on ferry occur during landings, many because of failure
to go over the check-off list beforehand. Another 25 percent are as a result of forced landings, in which pilot error often
is a contributing cause.
When delayed by accidents or crashes, pilots are required to stand by their planes until some naval authority takes over.
They are responsible for daily reports to headquarters on flight progress and for filling out the necessary reports due before
take-off and upon arrival at destination.
In case of crashes near Army air facilities where naval air operations are not near at hand, cooperation of that service
may be utilized, although pilots are instructed not to abuse the privilege. Ferry squadrons and service squadrons have to
be notified in case of accidents so that repair parts, modified orders and substitute pilots may be dispatched, if necessary.
Fliers forced down have to close their flight plans and notify nearest ferry control liaison officers, then file damage reports.
Routine to be performed on arrival at final destination includes filing of flight records and forms, having orders endorsed,
logs on the plane, engine and propeller filled out, maps returned, unless future flights are to be made over the same route,
and the final arrival report made out. The lead pilot must see that others in his flight observe regulations.