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There were many accidents during training.Maurice Deans Crichton,

who trained as a pilot at No. 32 Training Depot Squadron Montrose

in 1918, recalled that the pilot needed to know much more about the

trim of the aircraft and the workings of the engine than modern pilots.

The most alarming feature for the aircrew of these aircraft was how

inflammable they were.Wooden frames were covered in linen painted

with cellulose dope, engines spewed out hot oil and petrol came

from a tank positioned very close to the pilot’s wicker seat. At the

beginning of the war, aircraft of both sides were unarmed but that

changed with the introduction by the Germans of the Fokker

Eindekker in 1915. This was the first true fighter aircraft with a

machine gun, synchronised to fire through the arc of the rotating

propeller. The British BE2s designed for reconnaissance became, in

the words of the time,“Fokker fodder”.

The surest way to shoot down an enemy aircraft was to hit the pilot

or the fuel tank.Fire would rip through the aircraft very quickly and

for its crew there was no escape. The parachute had been invented

and was used by the crews of observation balloons but they were

not issued to aircrew. The leaders of the RFC believed they would be

bad for morale.The choice for men trapped in a burning aircraft was

jump or burn.