(Ryan School of Aeronautics Contract
Flying School, Ryan Field)
In September 1940, a CPS operated by the
Ryan School of Aeronautics, an affiliate of the Ryan Aircraft
Co., began training at Hemet, 40 miles east of El Toro. When the
school closed in December 1944, 6,629 of the 8,907 cadets who
started the pro gram were completed - a 74% graduation rate. In
April 1945, the DPC loaned Hemet to the Marines for an OLF of
El Toro. Seabees installed a catapult and arresting gear system
for carrier training. The detachment of Marines at Hemet numbered
about 60. In October 1945, Hemet was closed and the men returned
to El Toro. Today, Hemet is a general aviation airport.
T. Claude Ryan was one of the pioneers
in the American aviation business. He built aircraft, ran an
airline, and operated flying schools. The Spirit of Saint Louis,
flown solo by Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic in 1927,
was designed and built by Ryan Aeronautics in San Diego. Ryan
was trained as a pilot by the Army at March Field. In his efforts
to develop the flying industry, Ryan needed many well-trained
pilots. Ryan Flying School in San Diego was formally opened at
Ryan Field on May 1, 1928 for the purpose of making money and
to build up the stock of good pilots. In 1932 Ryan opened an
air terminal and school buildings at Lindbergh Field. In 1934,
Ryan launched a new aircraft for the training of new pilots called
the Ryan S-T for sport trainer. It was a radical departure from
earlier trainers like the bi-wing Stearman cloth-covered airplanes.
The S-T was a mono-low-wing design two-seater with an all aluminum
body. The S-T was used extensively by the Ryan student pilots.
Also in 1934 Consolidated Aircraft opened its factory at Lindbergh
Field after moving from Buffalo, New York.
In 1938 it appeared to many in the military
that the U.S. would become involved in a war in Europe. To prepare
for this event the Army needed a way to greatly increase the
number of Army pilots that it felt would be needed in the event
of a war. Army General Hap Arnold asked Ryan and eight other
commercial flight schools to help solve this problem by setting
up schools of instruction for Army pilots. They responded enthusiastically.
On May 8, 1939, General Arnold announced the plan to the Congress
and funding for the new schools was approved shortly thereafter.
Back at San Diego, Ryan Flight School
began construction of cadet barracks and additional technical
training facilities. Auxiliary training fields were selected
and prepared. Eight of the school's top instructors and commercial
pilot graduates were sent to Randolph Field for a cram course
in military training methods. These were followed by seven more.
The first eight Ryan instructors flew into San Diego on June
17, 1939 with their Army PT-13 Stearman biplane trainers. Nine
days earlier the Army announced that it would buy modern new
Ryan S-T trainers for its expanded program.
The first cadets arrived at San Diego
on July 1, 1939. The first class was 35 cadets. It had been less
than eight weeks since the plan was announced.
Following the opening class, new classes
arrived each six weeks for the three-month training program,
which included 65 hours of flight time and 225 hours of technical
instruction. In a few months the classes of incoming cadets were
increased to sixty-five student pilots.
Early on only the Army Stearman biplanes
were used to train the students, however, these were replaced
by the Ryan PT-16 military trainers with the second class of
cadets at the Ryan school. Eventually, the Army purchased hundreds
of the Ryan trainers for use in all its primary schools. After
the first year, the Army was pleased with the results and requested
that the program at Ryan be expanded. This could not be done
at the San Diego school so another site was needed. A second
site was located in the Hemet Valley not far from March Field
in Riverside County. 320 acres were provided by the Board of
Supervisors for the new school. Construction required only 37
days. Three million square feet of the field was oiled.
Five hangars, barracks, mess hall, control
tower and administration buildings were rushed to completion
in 1940. Primary training began September 9, 1940. Within a month
another construction program was launched to expand the school
to handle 600 cadets. Hemet graduated 98.5% of its cadet classes.
Four cadets from the San Diego school
were on the Jimmie Doolittle B-25 raid on Japan on April 18,
1942. Ryan graduate Captain Charles E. Yeager made aviation history
by flying his X-1 rocket plane past Mach 1 at Edwards Air Force
The Hemet facility became the mainstay
of Ryan's cadet training program, although training continued
at San Diego until 1942, when that area was classified by the
military as a combat zone. Ryan was requested to move the school
inland. This led to the establishment of a third facility for
500 cadets near Tucson, Arizona on June 15, 1942. The site was
barren but the facilities were built during the hottest summer
on record and six weeks after the first lumber arrived, planes
were operating from the Arizona field. Planes and personnel were
transported 400 miles over a weekend without the loss of a day's
Ryan's schools furnished the Army Air
Corps with 14,000 pilots before they closed in 1944. At the peak
of activity, in the fall of 1943, more than 1,200 cadets were
in training at Ryan schools at the same time.
By the time the war ended, 250,000 cadets
had been trained in primary schools and 193,131 had graduated
from advanced training.
For Claude Ryan and the operators of sixty
other contract schools, the end of the war brought a quiet peace.
Their nation had called and they had been ready. Two years after
V-J Day, President Harry S. Truman awarded the Civilian Certificate
of Merit to Claude Ryan for his wartime contributions.