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John C. Franks papers on the Civilian Pilot Training Program

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSP 171

Scope and Contents

The John C. Franks papers on the Civilian Pilot Training Program include twenty photographs of Franks and a number of unidentified flight students. The subjects of the photographs are the Purdue University Airport, flight students, and airplanes, including a Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio (WACO) aircraft, and a Howard DGA-18, which was a training aircraft. There is also a photograph of a World War II military fleet. Identifying information is included with the photographs. Along with the photographs are newspaper clippings about Franks becoming the chief pilot in charge of flight training at Purdue University, along with a magazine cover from Revista Aerea with a notation about John C. Franks Thunderbird Field patch, which is featured on the flight suit in the cover photo. 


  • 1942 - 1946


Language of Materials

Collection material is in English.

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Portions of material in this collection are in the public domain. Other material copyrights held by Purdue University or original creator. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special CoOllections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical and Historical Information

John C. Franks was chief flight instructor at Purdue University for the Civilian Pilot Training Program, during World War II. He began his instruction in 1942 as part of this Civilian Pilot Training Program to teach civilians how to become pilots. Franks was certified as an instructor in primary, secondary, commercial, cross country, and instructor courses. He also held a Civil Aeronautics Administration examiner designation. At Purdue, Franks trained civilians how to become pilots and he also trained Latin Americans, who came to the United States, to learn how to fly and repair aircraft. Since Purdue's flight program was so successful, the State department sent most of these new fliers to Purdue for flight training, courses in English, and also courses in other aeronautical areas. Skilled instructors such as Franks trained hundreds of student pilots during the school year and approximately eighty during the summers. At this time, the Purdue Airport was referred to "one of the busiest departments in the University." After the war, Franks left Purdue and became a corporate pilot for Schwitzer Corporation in Indianapolis and served as Chief Pilot until his death in 1966.

The United States' Civilian Pilot Training Program was begun in 1938. President Franklin D. Roosevelt supported the program's plan to train 20,000 civilian pilots a year, so the country would be prepared for the number of military pilots that would be needed for the impending war. By 1939, the number of newly Army-trained pilots grew from about nine hundred to approximately eight thousand in 1940. The year 1941 saw 27,000 pilots trained, but it was deemed necessary to train many more, as the United States' involvement in World War II seemed imminent. The Army desperately needed help to train the number of pilots needed. The United States Army Air Forces drew fliers from the Civilian Pilot Training Program, from an additional network of civilian schools under contract to the United States Army Air Forces, as well as from their own training schools.

The Civilian Pilot Training Program CPTP) reached the point where it operated out of 1,132 colleges and universities and 1,460 flight schools. The program trained approximately 435,165 pilots from 1939-1944. Purdue University was one of the universities which ran a CPTP.


0.226 Cubic Feet (One legal-size half-width manuscript box)


The material is grouped by type within separate folders.

Acquisition Information

The collection material was donated in two installment, by David C. Franks, son of John C. Franks. The first donation was on December 18, 2013. On December 8, 2016, David Franks and his brother, John Franks, donated an additional five photographs.

Processing Information

All materials have been housed in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes, and the photographs and original clippings have been placed into polyester sleeves for preservation purposes. The post-it notes that had been originally placed on the photographs have been removed, photocopied on acid-free paper and attached to their respective photographs. The newspaper clippings have also been photocopied onto acid free paper. The original clippings have been retained and placed into protective sleeves.



John C. Franks papers on the Civilian Pilot Training Program
Max Campbell and Mary A. Sego
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Third edition. Collection description first completed 2014-09-24 by Max Campbell.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States