Training pilots in Prineville for WWII combat
The Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 was approved by Congress. President Franklin D. Roosevelt unveiled the program on Dec. 27, 1938. He announced what was intended to provide a needed boost to general aviation providing pilot training to 20,000 college students a year. It was basically intended to boost the potential for national defense. It was named the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). The program was started in 1939 and the government paid for a 72-hour ground school course that was to be followed by 35 to 50 hours of flight instruction at facilities located near 11 colleges and universities
After World War II in Europe began, it became obvious of the military value of the CPTP. The United States began to evaluate its ability to fight an air war and the situation was not good. Pilots, instructors and aircraft were very limited. The Army Air Force and Navy reluctantly waived requirements for CPTP examinations. As the situation in Europe and in the Pacific became more intense the inevitability of the U.S. being drawn into the war began to mount.
As a result, the CPTP was revitalized and an expansion of its curriculum expanded to other colleges and universities. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into World War II, the program reached a peak of 1,132 educational institutions and 1,460 flight schools participating in the program. The program then became known as War Training Service.
In late December 1941, enlistments expanded for aviation training in Oregon. In January 1943, negotiations began to contract the use of the Prineville airport as a training base for the CPTP. The CPTP was moved from Madras to Prineville. An initial group of 25 pilots came to train at Prineville. A barracks was set up in a space east of the courthouse near Pioneer Park to house the trainees. Oregon State College and Portland University were in charge of the ground training prior to arrival at the flight training. Facilities were planned for up to 100 pilots. H.K. Pastronich was the operating manager and Maxine Gedney was secretary of the flying service.
A new flying field was constructed with a graded and graveled runway 2,500 feet long. Hangars, shops and an administrative building were constructed. The Portland Flying Service was in charge of training pilots. A recreation center for trainees was established at the corner of Third and Main streets in Prineville. The community supported the training program as much as possible and scrambled to provide adequate facilities for the incoming pilot trainees. A tragedy occurred at the training late in 1943 when two planes collided in mid-air and three men were killed just west of Prineville. The program began to close down late in 1944. The training effort contributed to the World War II aviation war effort.
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