The Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) was a British civilian organisation that ferried passengers and aircraft around the country. One important role the ATA undertook was to fly new aircraft from the factories to the operational units. Although a British organisation, pilots from thirty different countries eventually joined the ATA ranks.
Flying for the ATA was one of the war’s more dangerous occupations. Its 1,245 pilots and flight engineers delivered 309,011 aircraft, but 173 were killed including 15 of its 168 female aircrew.
As the war came to an end Lord Balfour, Under Secretary of State for Air said, “The men and women of the Air Transport Auxiliary were civilians in uniform who played a soldiers part in the Battle for Britain and who performed throughout the war a supreme importance to the RAF”.
After the initial training and flight testing process, ATA pilots were issued with a dark blue uniform, a light blue RAF shirt, and a black tie. On their jackets they proudly wore the ATA pilot’s brevet; a circlet enclosing the letters ‘ATA’ superimposed on a set of wings.
There were two ranks within the ATA structure; Second Officer for those who were qualified to fly only single engined aircraft and First Officer, for those with over 500 hours flying experience and qualified to fly twin or multi-engined aircraft. Rank was shown by gold bars on the pilot’s epaulettes.
AN EXAMPLE OF AN ATA PILOT’S BREVET IS DISPLAYED IN THE ATA EXHIBITION IN THE MUSEUM’S TANGMERE HALL