James McCud­den

BBC History Magazine - - Wwi Eyewitness Accounts -

Born in 1895, James joined the Royal Fly­ing Corps as an air me­chanic in 1913. By De­cem­ber 1915, he had be­come a reg­u­lar ob­server/gun­ner for sev­eral pi­lots with 3 Squadron, Royal Fly­ing Corps. Flight Sergeant James McCud­den had been sent back to Eng­land where he be­gan his much-an­tic­i­pated train­ing as a pilot. He pro­gressed well and was soon al­lowed to em­bark on his first solo flight, in a Mau­rice Far­man Longhorn, on 16 April. I got off the ground safely, but I do not re­mem­ber quite what hap­pened while I was in the air. I only have a vague rec­ol­lec­tion that I sat quite still, fly­ing au­to­mat­i­cally until I landed. Dur­ing this first solo I got up to 300 feet, and then came down all the way to the ground with the en­gine on. When about 10 feet off the ground, I switched off and made quite a good ‘tail-up’ land­ing at fully 70mph.

My in­struc­tor was quite pleased, so it must have been all right. I had seen so many ac­ci­dents through want of speed that I de­ter­mined that I would not stall on my first solo. Oh! That feel­ing when one has done one’s first solo. One imag­ines one­self so fright­fully im­por­tant. That same day McCud­den qual­i­fied for his Royal Aero Club Cer­tifi­cate by fly­ing solo while car­ry­ing out four fig­ure of eight turns, fol­lowed by a con­trolled glide from 1,200 feet to land within 40 yards of a spe­cific point. He still had much to learn – but at last he was a pilot.

“Oh! That feel­ing when one has done one’s first solo flight. One imag­ines one­self so fright­fully im­por­tant”

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