Training in the P-40
by Rene Burtner

Thanks for your e-mail and the info re your web site. My memory has fallen on bad times but I do remember a little about the P-40. I have some kind thoughts about the airplane but I don't know if they are kind thoughts because it was the first real fighter I flew of because I had so much fun at the RTU in Sarasota, FL.

I was in class 44B graduating in Marianna. FL. Class 44B was the first class not allowed to carry on the tradition of military cadets. After taking all kinds of abuse from our upper classmen we were eagerly looking forward to having our turn when the Air Force changed the rules. We were provided another first when we became the first class to graduate and receive our commission before going to gunnery school at Eglin Field.

After graduating we were granted a short leave before reporting back to Marianna and a trip to Eglin. Eglin was not setup to receive 2nd Lts. and our stay there lacked some of the perks provided officers. Upon completing gunnery school we went to another field (believe it was near Marianna but not certain) and were checked out in P-40s.

Only remember a couple of things about this period of time. I remember having trouble with seeing past the long nose and we had trouble with the engines overheating before we could get airbourne. Necessary to taxi at a fast pace to reach the runway for takeoff before engine over heated. We completed about 10 hrs. and were transferred to Dale Mabry in Tallahasse, Fl. and then to Sarasota where we received training in aerial gunnery, ground gunnery, skip bombing and dive bombing. Did not have a problem with engines overheating in Sarasota.

I had fun flying the P-40 although I remember that the torque was very bad during take off and anytime you put the nose down in a dive. I recall some pilots complaining about the rudder vibrating so hard during landing that their ankles hurt. There were some pilots killed during dive bomb training and we heard later that it was determined that the canopies had caved in because the P-40s were so hard to trim during a dive. The P-40 could turn inside any other fighter we encountered in Florida and performed very well at low altitude. I remember I could do a loop at cruising speed flying straight and level in the 40 but not in a P-51. The first time I tried to join formation flying a P-51 I went scooting right on by everyone. The 51 didn't brake as fast as a 40. Completed a total of 111 to 112 hours in the P-40 and they were all very enjoyable. Do not have any photos with a P-40.

Glad you can use my comments re P-40. You mentioned another 359th pilot flying P-40s in Sarasota. Was he John McAlister? John and I live a short distance apart in Charlotte. John, Lawrence Bearden and I were from Greensboro, NC. In Greensboro, Bearden lived at 300 Woodlawn Rd and I lived at 410 Woodlawn Rd. The 3 of us graduated from Marianna in Feb. 1944 and joined the359th in Aug 1944. Bearden and I were assigned to the 369th FS and John to the 370th FS. Bearden was killed in an accident before flying a combat mission. Have attached a photo of John and me in England. John on the left.

Have attached a couple of photos of "Hubert". Also, included one of John and me on the front cover of the Air National Guard calendar for 2002.

© Rene Burtner 2007