Plainview PGS Article 5

Smudge Pots Lit the Runways for Night Flying at Plainview Pre-Glider School

By John W. McCullough, Graduate Student History, Texas Tech University

This is the fifth article in a series about Clent Breedlove’s Plainview Pre-Glider School. 

In a recent interview, Tom Moore of Lockney, recalled many details about nighttime flying at the Plainview Pre-Glider School which was located at Finney Field during WWII.  Moore was an instructor at this field from May to around mid-September of 1942.

Moore recalled that they used smudge pots to mark the runways for nighttime flying.  The smudge pots were lit and a large flame would illuminate the area around it.  The smudge pots were about 50 feet apart and lined both sides as well as the ends of the runways.

To help with nighttime flying, the Cub J-3s had flashlights wired to them:  one on each wing and one on the tail.  Conditions improved later with better lights on the planes.

Harold Humphries was also a pilot instructor at the Plainview Pre-Glider School during this time.  In a recent interview, he remembered the flashlights attached to the planes but thought they used duct tape to affix them to the craft.  Humphries also recalled a special type of lens cover they used on the front of the flashlights.  This cover was a round clear dome which would stick out in front of the flashlight thus allowing for more light to be seen from all sides.

After flying with an instructor in the plane at night, the students would solo at night, as well.  The students would perform only “dead-stick” flying at night.  The students never flew from Plainview to the auxiliary fields at night.  They would only take off from Finney Field and land at the same field lit by the smudge pots.

Most of the instructors did not like night flying but command chose five instructors to perform the night flying instruction, one of which was Moore.

Since Moore and the other four nighttime instructors had their days free, they would play golf.  When the other pilot instructors saw this, they asked command to allow them to begin instructing cadets at night, too.

The nighttime portion of the training came at the last part of the student pilots’ 40-hour training period.  After instruction was complete, Moore thinks many of the students went on to South Plains Army Air Field (SPAAF) in Lubbock or Dalhart Army Air Field (DAAF) for more advanced glider pilot training.

Moore left Plainview Pre-Glider School around the middle of September, 1942 to return back to Lubbock and instruct student pilots in the Civilian Pilot Training Program for Clent Breedlove at Breedlove Airport.  The primary reason Moore wanted to return to Lubbock was to be closer to his girl friend Mary Jeanne who later became his wife.  Moore received the same pay as an instructor both a Plainview and in Lubbock, about $225 per month.  Moore enjoyed the training at Breedlove Airport better than Finney Field since it did not involve “dead stick” training.

For more information about glider pilots please visit Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock or online at

If you have information about the Plainview Pre-Glider School, please contact John McCullough at 806-793-4448 or email and visit his website at:

Tom and Mary Jeanne Moore of Lockney, Texas.