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This photograph shows chief instructor W.J. ‘ Billy’ Stutts, sitting on top of a Curtis Jenny plane. Stutts trained many Australian pilots for service in World War 1. The training took place at the NSW State Aviation Schoolon Ham Common at Clarendon west of Sydney, later to become Richmond air base.
Born inMelbourne, Stutt began his career as an engineer and in 1913, aged 25, travelled toEnglandto study aeronautical engineering. After war broke out he was commissioned in the Royal Flying Corps, Hampshire Aircraft parks, in 1916. His duties included forty flights to deliver and collect dispatches from Hounslow to the headquarters of the British Expeditionary Forces inFrance. In 1916 he was released from the English Army and recruited as Chief Instructor to the school a tRichmond. There were no training planes available from Englandso the pilots learned using USA Curtiss Jenny planes.
Stutt had a good report with students and was known as ‘The Chief’ or ‘The Boss’. This photograph seems to capture something of Stutt’s reputation for good humour. One of his students wrote that he seemed to treat the whole business of flying as an amusing affair, probably to give his students confidence.
Ref: Billy Stutt and the Richmond Flyboys: The New South Wales State Aviation School, 1915-1918 and beyond by Neville F. Hayes, Pacific Downunder, Crowes, Victoria 2008.
Post by Kathy Hackett, Photo Librarian
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