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
flying training aircraft is fairly complete. The data for fighter and multi-engine bomber trainers continues
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!
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 specified
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
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 cockpit. 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 Randolph Field PT-19's were marked with the letter "H". The Spartan
Aircraft Co., Tulsa, OK (a contract primary school) had at least one PT-19 with the fuselage letter code of "R".
Interestingly, the seven British Flying Training Schools (BFTS)
located in the U.S. did fly primary aircraft with fuselage letter codes and these are documented in that section
of this document. Both PT-17 and PT-19 aircraft were utilized and supporting photographs are included in that subsection.
Basic and Advanced Training Aircraft
The US insignia was to be displayed on the wing with optional display on the fuselage. The fuselage
would display the s/n and / or a sequential number assigned by the base (1-999) and in most cases an 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 30-36 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 as a suffix to the numeric (e.g. 320G), one with four
character numerics only and some with two and three alpha characters ( e.g.'CD' & 'KNF') with
no sequential numbers.
Starting in mid-1943 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 flying training. This decision was based on the results of the British
Flight Training School # 5 at Clewiston, FL who saw no purpose of the BT-13 aircraft in the training program. The British
felt that the aircraft was unchallenging because of the ease in which it could be flown. Much to the chagrin of the
USAAF 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.
Fuselage Letter Generation
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:
Training Command (EFTC): There was a tendency to choose a letter prefix 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, Augusta GA for
Western Flying Training Command
(WFTC): There was a similar system to above utilizing the AAF name...but not necessarily 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 Kirtland Field used "Q" which was derived from the name of the community of
Albuquerque, Luke Field used "X" which was the last letter of Phoenix. Nearby
Williams Field 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.
Training Command (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 (as either a prefix or suffix) it appears that it was a locally chosen character
with no apparent meaning (e.g. 3A, 2H, etc.).
British Flying Training Schools (BFTS): A
wide variety of aircraft fuselage codes were used 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, BA thru B[x], etc.) and finally a three letter system without numerics (HAB, KN[x], etc).
Transition Specialized Training
Transition Training was the last
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 such as A, B, C, D, V, etc. with frequent redundancy among the bases. How these code letters
were chosen and allocated is unknown but I have documented what I have found for historical purposes.
engine bomber trainers typically were B-25, B-26 or A-20 aircraft all displaying quite a variety of letter and number code
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.).
Four engine bomber trainers also displayed a variety of letter
code formats sometimes making logical sense (e.g. 'A' for Avon Park, 'D' for Drew Field). Other times there was no logical
geographical association (e.g. 'BM' for Moses Lake). Sometimes the code letter was carried on the fuselage other times on
the vertical tail only and occasionally in both positions.
All-Through Schools (A-TS)
Typically, when a cadet completed a specific phase of flying
training (e.g. primary) he would be transferred to another base for basic and still another base for advanced.
There were instances, although rare, where all three levels of flying training were completed on the same base.
Known instances of the A-TS bases are as follows:
British Flying Training Schools (BFTS) @ six locations.
Prior to the US entry into the WWII all USAAC cadets were sent to Randolph Field (TX) where they completed the three
levels of flying training.
AAF, AL : Primary thru Transition (S-E & 2-E).
There were other instances where two phases of flying training
were combined (e.g. basic and advanced) but then not necessarily for all classes at a given base. Some examples of combined
basic-advance are listed below:
AAF (CA): Cadets completing basic could move onto 2-E adv using AT-17/UC-78 or AT-20. This training took place at the Helm auxiliary
field (Re: Class 44B).
Lemoore AAF (CA): Experimental
classes were modeled by transitioning newly arrived cadets to take their entire basic training in 2-E trainers.
Minter Field (CA): Cadets completing basic could move onto
2-E adv using AT-17/UC-78 at the Coalinga auxiliary field.
Maxwell Field (AL): At least one class was a basic -advanced class(BT-13 & AT-6).
Mather Field (CA): The pilot Central Instructor School (CIS) operated from
1940 thru '43 with PT-22 thru AT-9 aircraft types. This program then transferred to Randolph Field.
All constructive input is more than welcomed.
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