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PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

In 1941, Winston Churchill made an urgent appeal to the U.S. to provide war materials and pilot training for defense against a superior German air power which bombarded England during the Battle of Britain. Cadets where unable to train in England because of horrible weather conditions and "…the Nazis had a nasty habit of shooting down anything that flew." President Roosevelt responded by implementing the Lend Lease Act, which called for the construction of six British Flying Training Schools in warm and sunny California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas and the #5 BFTS at Riddle Field near the town of Clewiston, Florida, which trained more than 1,700 cadets in the Royal Air Force.

Go flying with veteran RAF cadets and their barnstorming American civilian instructors, in vintage WWII planes, as they recall happy times they shared and the deadly reality of the skies over the English Channel.

Veteran RAF cadet Eric Loveland recalls these times of hardship in England when food and clothes were rationed and people lived in fear of the next air raid. The story follows Loveland and the cadets from their treacherous journey overseas by boat to Halifax, Canada to their train ride south to Clewiston. The British cadets were warmly received by the locals and as flight instructor Reed Clary recalls, "They were royally treated and to the cadets this was heaven in itself."

Surviving cadets and American flight instructors relive daily life at Riddle Field from basic training in the Stearman PT-17 to completion of the advanced course in the Harvard AT-6. The cadets also received extensive training in formation flying, acrobatic maneuvers, armaments and instrument navigation. One veteran talks of the barnstorming flight instructors, some as young as eighteen, that created a great atmosphere and the camaraderie that made them better pilots.

More than 1,300 cadets earned their wings at Riddle Field and returned to England to face their two greatest enemies the Nazis and the weather. The documentary takes you back to these days of combat where pilots had to dog fight the Germans in gruesome weather they could not train for in the warmth and serenity of Clewiston, Florida.

An original production of WPBT Channel 2, The Flying Days of Riddle Field combines fond memories of the time shared by the men and women of Riddle Field, with the sadness of the many lives lost during WWII. It is a unique story of allies coming together to fight a war, and in the process building friendships that would last a lifetime. This poignant documentary uses personal interviews, extensive archival footage and vintage photographs to paint a vivid picture of what most suprisingly call "the best times in their flying careers."

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