Primary and Basic Flight Training at Randolph Field, San Antonio, Texas

Randolph Field is an immense Air Force Base, two monster grass air fields, the west stage for primary flight training and the east stage for basic flight training. There are many smaller paved air fields nearby for landing and takeoff training. Click the line below for a historic tour of Randolph Field.

Tour Randolph Field 1927 - 1996

During the mid 1930s through 1946 the student pilots in primary training flew mostly Stearman PT-17 biplane primary trainers. During World War II a few Fairchild PT-19s and Ryan PT-22s were used for primary training due to the rapid expansion of the training program. The basic training aircraft was a Vultee BT-13 fixed landing gear trainer. Its predecessor was the BT-9 which was almost identical to the BT-13. The 1930s illustration below shows the student pilots in the basic phase of their training program lined up in front of their BT-9 aircraft at Randolph field with their helmets, goggles and parachutes strapped on. The flight line at Randolph Field looked exactly the same when I was student pilot there.

Our training class was called 48C and had about 150 trainees in it. Primary training was four months long and basic training also four months long. Instead of using primary training and basic training aircraft, the Air Force experimented by having our class use North American AT-6 advanced training aircraft for primary and basic. The AT-6 is illustrated below and at the bottom of this page.

The AT-6 used a Pratt and Whitney 650 horsepower radial engine and had a gross weight of about 6000 pounds. It was NOT a light plane. Primary training soloed the student after about 15 to 20 hours of dual instruction and gave him about 75 hours total flying time which made him a very proficient fundamental AT-6 pilot.

Basic flight training included instrument flying, link trainer instruction, acrobatics, cross country experience, and night flying. The AT-6 was a wonderful acrobatic aircraft which could perform every manuver in the book. The 75 hours flying time I had in Basic, when given the chance, I spent practicing acrobatics. Upon graduation from Basic our class, now about 100 survivors, was split in two with 50 students going to fighter advanced training and 50 students going to advanced multi-engine training. One's instructor and check pilot instructor recommendation determined which advanced group each student was sent to.

Luckily I was sent to fighter advanced training which almost all my classmates also wanted. So, off to Williams Air Force Base near Phoenix, Arizona in May 1948 on my Harley Davidson motorcycle with my roommate sitting behind me. It was a truly fun trip across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. We stopped counting jack rabbits and wily coyotes after we reached 100!

The original 256 colors AT-6 .gif graphics of this AT-6 was 35,000 bytes in length. By reducing the color count to 16 colors and cleaning up extraneous unneeded information we reduced the size to less than 2500 bytes which loads very quickly and still gives the user an accurate picture of the AT-6 advanced trainer. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!