[Received February 16, 1918]


Royal Flying Corps,

London Colney

January 26, 1918.

Dear Mother and Father:

I was going to give you more details about my recent flying. When I did my first solo there were heavy clouds at about 2000 feet so I could not go up to try anything, I just made circles around and tried to land each time. I was not much good but I did not bust anything and I got a lot of practice at landings which is the most important thing for a beginner.

Once or twice when I went up dual there were black clouds all over the sky. The air was thick with mist and no sun. We would go up to about 2500 feet, duck through the clouds and come out in a beautiful skyland of sunshine. The clouds on top are lovely and fluffy and white. I cannot go up that way alone yet because I do not know the country well enough. After you finish playing around above the clouds you dive down through them and then when you see the earth you try to locate where you are.

I had secretly set my heart on doing a loop and a nose spin on my first solo, but the weather did not permit sufficient altitude. Then the next day it was too gusty and windy for beginners so my instructor, Captain Cairnes, took me up and taught me to loop and Immelman. The machine we had would not nose spin so if it is clear tomorrow I will have a chance of trying to hold her in a nose spin on my own instruction.

Captain Cairnes first looped me. It is very simple—like this. You get your engine on the right adjustment, put your nose down and dive until you get a speed of 90 miles an hour and then pull your stick into your stomach. Up goes your nose, up goes your machine, you become very heavy and push down on the seat and rudder bar like a ton of bricks. Then the sky goes down in front of you and you get very light and put your shoulders under the cockpit. Then the rear horizon and the earth comes rolling up over your shoulders. You shut off the engine and swing on to the stick to keep yourself in the bus. Then you come gliding down the back of the loop and the wires start singing as your speed increases. Then as the original front horizon comes down in front of you, you let your stick forward and ease her out, putting on your engine, and carry on.

Perhaps I should tell you the general idea of the controls. The rudder for steering to port or starboard is controlled from a bar pivoted in the center and moved by your feet on each end just like a sled. When you are flying straight and level the rudder controls your direction in the horizontal plane, but when you are on your side with the right wing vertical the rudder controls your up and down motion in the vertical plane. Then the clever part of the controls is the “joy stick” or just “stick.” It is a stick about 2 feet long pivoted by one end down on the level of your feet and when central and vertical comes up between your knees with a good handle just above your lap. The connection or pivot at its lower end is universal, viz., such that the stick can be inclined forward and back and to either side or a little of each. When you push it forward your nose goes down and you dive, you pull it back and your nose rises and you climb. You incline it to the right and your right wing goes down while your left comes up and visa-versa. So you see to fly straight it is just necessary to stir the pudding feebly with the stick to keep her balanced, and hold her straight with the rudder bar.

The Immelman is a more complicated and useful stunt. The idea of it is to change your direction of flight very quickly without staying uniform or slow so as to be a pot shot. You are supposed to come out of it on almost the same tracks you went in but going in the opposite direction.

You can see that you first pull her up on a sort of stalling spiral, almost like the beginning of a loop. Then when you get your nose vertical you increase your rudder to a maximum kick which makes her fall over on her side. Then when your fuselage is horizontal and your wings vertical (position No. 3) you cut off your engine and she continues to fall over until her nose is pointing vertically down. Then you put on opposite rudder to straighten out of her side ways motion and as she comes out of the dive ease your stick forward, put on your engine and carry on. It takes just about six seconds.

The nose spin is just what the name implies. You get your nose down almost vertically about 85°, shut off your engine and twirl your wings around on the vertical axis as you go down. It is the way to drop a couple of thousand feet quickly without traveling any in the horizontal direction. Some machines are rigged so that you cannot hold them in a real nose spin; they will glide out no matter how hard over you push your rudder and pull back your stick.

I am scheduled to fly at 9 A.M. and 2 P.M. tomorrow. Here’s hoping the clouds are not completely over the sky so as I can go up and have some fun. Landings are very good practice and I need a lot, but they are no fun.

 On my second solo I had a pretty clear sky. The wind up above was about 50 mi./hr. so I flew into it most of the time and stayed near the airdrome. As I climbed up I tried zooming, that is diving for speed and then climbing up at a steep angle by virtue of your speed and inertia. I also tried some steep banks. Then when I got up to 5500 feet I did three loops, they were lots of fun. Then I tried a left hand Immelman. The first attempt seemed to be pretty good, but the three following ones were not much. I did not seem to be able to reverse my rudder at the right moment. Then I tried one to the right. It was pretty punk so I decided I was fed up and tried a couple of steep turns and came down. When you have been up for 3/4 of an hour trying to throw her around in a particular fashion you get very clumsy and cannot do it right. It is not so much that you are tired but you just seem to be “fed up.”

Well I will say good night.

Love to all,


For his first solo and when he was learning to loop and Immelman, Parr was flying Avro C4481.

Parr’s instructor was Irish born, Rugby educated William Jameson Cairnes. A few years younger than Parr, Cairnes had served in the Leinster Regiment on the Western Front and in Salonika in 1915. He was seconded to the R.F.C. in 1916 and served in Egypt before being transferred to France in 1917.239 As a captain in No. 19 Squadron R.F.C. in France in the spring and summer of 1917, he shot down four enemy planes.240