Winding Down - what to do next?
Seventy-five ATA Ferry pilots, both experienced and relative newcomers, applied for Royal Aero Club Certificates in the last few months of 1945 under what was called the 'ATA Wings' Scheme, although it's not clear whether they actually did the (very basic) flying test, or simply recorded the number of hours on the highest aircraft 'class' on which they were qualified..
[The Royal Aero Club Certificate or 'Ticket' normally involved:
The rules declared that:
For the relative newcomers, it was a chance to gain an 'A' Certificate which would allow them to fly for pleasure (or potentially, business) after the war, but Commanders and Senior Commanders like Marcus Hale or Peter Mursell who clearly had not gained a Royal Aero Club Certificate before the war - mostly because they learnt to fly in the RAF or Fleet Air Arm - applied too.
Here is the list of those pilots:
... but if the women had hopes of flying commercially after the ATA, most of them were, as we have seen, destined to be disappointed.
The ATA was wound up in 1945
A.T.A. Bows itself Out
Last Landing For ‘Shadow Air Force’
by a Daily Record Staff Reporter
Prestwick Airport, Thursday.
Britain’s shadow air force - the Air Transport Auxiliary - life-line of the R.A.F. and Royal Navy - is touching down for the last time but leaving a trail of bravery and devotion to duty which nothing can erase.
On the last day of this month, hundreds of flyers of this vital war-time ferry service or ‘second-line air force’ will doff their navy blue and gold uniforms for the last time at the 15 stations dotted around the British Isles.
Theirs is a story of unfailing courage and skill in the air - in fair weather or foul. During the black years of war, A.T.A. pilots - many of them ‘mere’ girls - risked the dangers of enemy aircraft, without armament, navigator companion, or radio, to deliver more than 302.000 planes of all types over a distance of 100 million miles.
These kings and queens of the air flew alone. They handled Liberators, Fortresses, Lancasters, Halifaxes, Spitfires, and all the others, in their war-paints of Light Blue (for the Mediterranean), Dark Blue (North Sea), and Fawn (for the Desert).
Now, their job is done—well done.
MAN IN CHARGE
Commander James McGuinness, a Motherwell man, showed me to-day round the station he commanded here at Prestwick. Commander McGuinness has, since he arrived early in the war, put several hundred pilots through his hands, averaging 50 at a time - the normal station strength.
But it was in the mess and the lounge or pilot’s rest-room that I saw the faintly pathetic human side of the story. Carpets were rolled up, chairs piled high, the billiard table covered, and the dart-board lying in a corner.
“The A.T.A. was formed early in the war, and is administered by the Ministry of Aircraft Production”, the Commander told me. “We are really civilians In livery, with no Service rights - although we took planes off during the evacuation of Dunkirk and have since been an important link in the war plan. We might be termed the ‘Merchant Navy of the R.A.F., but are not entitled to any medals, ribbons or gratuities.”
I spoke with 38-year-old Flight-Capt. Jose M- Carreras, stockily-built Spaniard from Barcelona, who has flown in various countries, and was with the Republican Army during the Spanish Civil War. He has been flying since he was 18,.
Capt. Carreras has ferried over 1000 ‘kites” to all parts of the British Isles. His logbook tells an interesting story. He has flown 120 different types, over 2000 hours, and 300,000 miles, since joining the A.T.A. in 1940.
Here is a typical entry for one day—Flew a Lancaster from Prestwick to Lossiemouth (1 1/4 hours); an Anson from Lossiemouth to Scatsta, in the Shetlands (2 hours): Sunderland from Scatsta to Belfast (4 hours); and Belfast back to Prestwick in an Anson (1 hour).
Fourteen women pilots have ferried ’planes from Prestwick. One, Jean McDougall, a Greenock girl, left lately to be married. “We have two girls flying four-engined aircraft”, Commander McGuinness told me. They are very reliable.”
A spectacular air display, in which a Gloucester Meteor, Bristol Buckmaster, and a Fairey Firebrand - three types just off the secret list never previously shown to the public - will be A.T.A.’s farewell to Prestwick on Saturday and Sunday. There will also be an exhibition of aircraft on the ground. The Meteor - jet-propelled - will show her paces with some fantastic speeds. Proceeds from the admission charge of 2s 6d are to be devoted to the A.T.A. Benevolent Fund.