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Echelon of "Y" coded Training  Aircraft based at Williams AAF, AZ

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Official USAAF Photo from Collection of W.T. Larkins

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 Introduction

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I have attempted to structure the fuselage code letters used on USAAF WWII training aircraft into a meaningful format.  As of  this writing I feel that the code data for Basic and Advanced flight training aircraft is fairly complete. The data for fighter and multiengine bomber trainers is continuing to be collected. I welcome all information as there are no doubt omissions and revisions to be made. Is this list correct, complete and without fault?  Hardly,... it's a messy subject!  Contact the webmaster with your input…Please!

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Researching this information and organizing it into a meaningful format has been a most daunting task.  Actually, I have spent years collecting this information.  I’ve obtained my information from books, magazines, internet, libraries, photographs, e-mails and interviews with some very helpful people. This research project was developed as no complete list of fuselage code letters for training aircraft has ever been documented.  The only formal USAAF documentation ever found on the subject was a letter written 20 May 1942 which identified the fuselage code letters for 15 AAF's  within the Southeast AAF Training Center centered at Hq. Maxwell Field, AL The Southeast AAF Training Center was later reorganized into the Eastern Flying Training Command (EFTC).

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Primary Training Aircraft

 

Convention was that primary training aircraft would not display a fuselage letter code and carry only numerics on the fuselage body. Typically, this numeric (1-999) was to be positioned on the fuselage aft of the rear pilot. The addition or sole use of the aircraft serial number on the fuselage was not uncommon.  Further, the US insignia was to be displayed only on wing positions.  To date I have documented two AAF's and one Primary School that did indeed display a fuselage letter code on their aircraft as follows: Mather Field (CA) displayed the letter "I" on PT-22's and Avenger Field (TX) displayed the letter "U" on PT-17's. The Spartan Aircraft Co., Tulsa, OK ( a Primary School) had at least one PT-19 with the fuselage letter code of "R".

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 Interestingly, the seven British Flight Training Schools (BFTS) located in the U.S. did fly Primary aircraft with fuselage letter codes and these are documented in that subsection.  Both PT-17 and PT-19 aircraft were utilized and supporting photographs are included in that subsection. 

 

It has been noted that in 1944-45 some Primary schools were utilizing Vultee Valiants for flight training. These aircraft were no doubt excess to needs as AT-6's were replacing BT-13's for the Basic phase of flight training.  

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 Basic and Advanced Training Aircraft

 

The US insignia was to be displayed on the wing with optional display on the fuselage. The fuselage would carry either the s/n repeated on the fuselage and / or a sequential number assigned by the base (1-999) and in most cases a large alpha character identifying the assigned base either singularly (e.g. 'P' for Pecos AAF, TX) or sometimes in a dual manner (e.g. 'GE' for George Field, IL). This alpha character, roughly 30 inches in height,  was typically followed by a locally assigned three-character sequential number (e.g. GE  201, 202, ...).  As there are always exceptions the author has identified aircraft with the letter code following the numeric, some with four character numeric only and some with two and three alpha characters ( e.g.'CD' &  'KNF')  with no sequential numbers.    

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In 1944 the Vultee BT-13 began its phase-out as a Basic Trainer and was slowly being replaced by the AT-6 for that phase of flight training. This decision was based on the results of the British Flight Training School # 5 at Clewiston, FL who saw no purpose of the Vultee type in the training program. Much to the chagrin the USAAF powers-that-be the RAF elected to phase their  cadets directly from the PT-17 to the AT-6  and was so successful that both the USAAF and the USN dropped the BT-13 Valiant from their flight training programs. Hence in the Basic Training portion of the website it will be noted that the AT-6 is occasionally mentioned as a Basic trainer. 

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Fuselage  Letter Generation

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Interestingly, the alpha code(s) assigned was not a “tops-down” edict by USAAF Hq. but apparently done on a local or possibly training command directive. There does seem to be a 'common thread' methodology for the EFTC and the WFTC Commands as follows:

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EFTC:  There is a strong tendency to choose a letter that represents the first letter(s) of the AAF (e.g. "SP"  for Spence Field, "J" for  Jackson AAF). The secondary scheme would be to use the first letter of the nearest city (e.g "A" for Bush Field, Augusta GA). 

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WFTC: There is a similar system to above utilizing the AAF name...but not necesarily the first letter. For example Mather Field used the "T", Stockton used the "K", Merced used the "E", Lemoore used the "R", Roswell  used the "W". The secondary method for the WFTC was to use a letter chosen from the name of a nearby city but then again not necessarily the first letter. For example Minter Field used "L" which was derived from the name of the community of Lerdo, Luke Field used "X" which was  the last letter of Phoenix. Nearby Williams AAF  used a "Y" which is the last letter in the name of the adjacent town of Higley The use of "Z" for Las Vegas AAF remains a mystery. Perhaps "Z" was selected as it was unallocated and it completed the alphabetical sequence as both X and Y had been had been chosen for other neaby AAF's...just conjecture of course.    

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CFTC: Fuselage letter code usage was not that common within this command. Consequently, in the tables that follow the expression of (NLA), meaning No Letter Assigned, is fairly common   In the instances when a letter was used it appears that it was a locally chosen character with no apparent meaning (e.g. 3A, 2H, etc.). 

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.BFTS: The British Flight Training Schools used a wide variety of aircraft fuselage codes throughout the seven locations in the USA most of which do not make sense. This mis-mash of letters is probably a result of excess aircraft passed on to them by the USAAF. However, there is one common thread as such that did reveal itself in some schools, that is the letter "B" presumably for British.  Lancaster (CA) used letters "BL" for British Lancaster, Falcon Field (AZ) used  "BP" for British Phoenix, Ponca City (OK) used a "B" as did some aircraft at Miami, OK. The balance was an 'alphabet soup' of letters ( i.e. H, W, S, V etc). Further there was a double letter system used without numerics (i.e. AA thru at least AJ, CA thru C[x]) and finally a three letter system without numerics (HAB, KNF, KN[x], etc).    

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Transition Training 

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Transition Training was the phase following Advanced  where pilots were introduced to higher performance fighters or multi-engine bombers and transports for the first time. The fighter aircraft utilized were P-39, P-40, P-47 et.al. and the fuselage codes assigned were single letters as A, B, C, D, V, etc. with a lot of redundancy among the bases ("A" seemed to be really popular). How these code letters were chosen and allocated is unknown but I have documented what I have found for historical purposes. 

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Twin engine bomber trainers typically were B-25, B-26 or A-20 aircraft all displaying quite a variety of letter codes formats. Generally speaking the majority of these aircraft carried the letter code on the nose and sometimes repeated on the tail.    Again a variety of other nose codes have been noted. (e.g. a four digit  numeric only, a single letter followed by one or more numerics,etc.).        

             

All constructive input is more than welcomed. Contact me!!   webmaster@fuselagecodes.com

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JDV Rev:  30Mar2014