Air Scout Insignia, AS-02Air Scouts (1941-1949)

Air Scouts were established as an Air Force inspired program, much in the same way that Sea Scouts is a Naval inspired program.  As it was established during the war years when aviation was truly coming into its own, it was very successful.  In September, 1949, with Senior Scouts becoming Explorers, the Air Scout program became the Air Explorer program.

Air Scout program
The basic Air Scout program had scouts learn about the world of aeronautics, as a pre-flight training program.  This entailed them learning a great deal about flight, about how aircraft were built and operated, and how to fly them, short of actually doing so.  They learned about a wide range of topics relating to flying, including engines, weather, radio, and more.  The Army Air Corp and Navy helped out, considering we were involved in WWII at the time.

Air Scout Uniforms
Air Scouts and adult leaders wore uniforms of sky blue.  Community strips, state strips, and unit numbers were available in these colors to match.  There are many pictures of Air Scouts in elaborate uniforms with blouse coats and the like, but these were apparently experimental uniforms, and were not adopted as the official uniforms.

Air Scout Uniform strip, AS-01Air Scout blue on blue community strip

Air Scout Advancement Program
There were actually two parts to the Air Scout advancement program.  There was the main advancement used by Air Scouts themselves.  Inspired by the four level Sea Scouts Advancement program, Air Scouts also had a four level program of Apprentice, Observer, Craftsman, and Ace.  There were also the Air Candidate awards.  These existed from 1941-48, and were intended for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class Scouts in Boy Scout Troops to earn.  The idea to get these boys interested in Air Scouting, so that they might participate when they turned 15.

At first the Air Scout advancement program was fairly tough. To see those requirements, go here. Later in January of 1947, the Air Scout advancement program was revamped, and Specialist Badges (also called Ratings strips) were introduced.  Under the new scheme, general Air Scout accomplishments was recognized by advancement in rank, while specialized aviation knowledge was recognized by advancement in the ratings. This lead to an increase in the numbers of awards given out. This was understandable, as the Ace Award was the hardest award to earn, having 130 requirements compared to 39 for the Ranger Award or 75 for Quartermaster. Requirements were reduced to 45.  This is also seen by the fact that it was three years before anyone earned Ace! The success of the ratings strips would lead to them being added to the revised Explorer advancement program of the 50s, but here the earning of Ratings was necessary to advance in rank.  These new requirements were optional for 1947, becoming manditory in 1948.

If its not clear from the below chart, Air Scouts earned the Specialist Badges (Ratings) by completing 5 of the 6 requirements and taking part in service, outdoor, and social activities, and had to earn the Ratings in order.  So an Air Scout would have to advance from Observer Airman Rating to Craftsman Airman Rating to Ace Airman Rating.  In earning the ranks, they completed 14 requirements from 9 groups, and at least one from each group.  The six Ratings where included in these 9 groups.  But they did not have to complete the Ratings, just complete at least one requirement from each.
Air Scout Advancement Program, 1946-54
For the new advancement requirements after 1947, both rank and ratings, go HERE.

In addition to this, National also took the Aviation Merit Badge and in 1941, split it into 4 merit badges: Aerodynamics, Aeronautics, Airplane Design, and Airplane Structure.  These lasted until 1952, when Aviation was brought back.  Earning of these 4 merit badges was necessary for the Air Scout Candidate Awards and for the earlier Air Scout Advancement program.  With the revamped requirments that came out in 1947, it was no longer necessary for Air Scouts to earn these 4 merit badges.  These merit badges were all embroidered with a blue background.  There was also a sky blue merit badge sash made for the Air Scouts.

There exist a set of three Air Scout/Air Explorer advancement awards without lettering.  It is debated when and why these were put out.  Some say they were released in the late 40s before Air Scouts became Air Explorers, others say they were released before the Air Explorers switched to using the Explorer Silver award program.  I am listing them here, instead.
Air Scout Candidate Awards (for Boy Scouts) 1941-48
Air Scout Tenderfoot Candidate, AS-54Tenderfoot Air Scout Second Class Candidate, AS-55Second Class Air Scout First Class Candidate, AS-56First Class 

Air Scout Advancement (1941-46)
Air Scout Apprentice, AS-12Air Scout Apprentice Air Scout Observer, AS-13Air Scout Observer
Air Scout Craftsman, AS-14Air Scout Craftsman Air Scout Ace, AS-15Air Scout Ace

Air Scout Advancement (1947-49??)
Air Scout Apprentice   NO PICTURE Air Scout Observer     NO PICTURE
Air Scout Craftsman    NO PICTURE

Air Scout Ace Medal & Knot 
Ace Scout Ace Medal, Version 1, AS-16 Air Scout Ace lapel pin, AS-17Air Scout Ace Award KnotAir Scout Ace Knot

Air Scout Specialist Badges (1947-49)
Observer Airman Rating Strip, AS-19Observer Airman Craftsman Airman Rating Strip, AS-20Craftsman Airman Ace Airman Rating, AS-21Ace Airman
Observer Builder Rating Strip, AS-22Observer Builder Craftsman Builder Rating Strip, AS-23Craftsman Builder Ace Builder
Observer Communicator Rating Strip, AS-25Observer Communicator Craftsman Communicator Rating Strip, AS-26Craftsman Communicator Ace Communicator Rating Strip, AS-21Ace Communicator
Observer Mechanic Rating Strip, AS-28Observer Mechanic Craftsman Mechanic Rating Strip, AS-29Craftsman Mechanic Ace Mechanic Rating Strip, AS-30Ace Mechanic
Observer Navigator Rating Strip, AS-31Observer Navigator Craftsman Navigator Rating Strip, AS-32Craftsman Navigator Ace Navigator Rating Strip, AS-33Ace Navigator
Observer Outdoorsman Rating Strip, AS-34Observer Outdoorsman Craftsman Outdoorsman Rating Strip, AS-35Craftsman Outdoorsman Ace Outdoorsman Rating Strip, AS-36         Ace Outdoorsman

Air Scout merit badges (1941-52)
Aerodynamics Meric Badge, AS-48Aerodynamics Aeronautics Merit Badge, AS-57Aeronautics Airplane Design Merit Badge, AS-59Airplane Design Airplane Design Merit Badge, AS-60Airplane Structure

Air Scout Unit Organization
Air Scout Units were called Squadrons.  These were subdivided into smaller groups called Flights. In 1946, offices and unit terms were renamed to bring everything in line with other Senior Scouting units.  Flights were renamed Crews, so that all Senior Scout units had the same subdivisions.  Squadrons were now lead by Senior Crew Leaders and Squadron Advisors.  Many Squadrons, however, continued to use the old terminology.  To better understand the terms used, here is a comparison with Boy Scout Troops and Explorer Posts.
Unit Term Comparison
Boy Scout Troop Explorer Post Air Scout Squadron
Scoutmaster Post Advisor Squadron Leader, later Squadron Advisor
Senior Patrol Leader Senior Crew Leader Squadron Pilot, later Senior Crew Leader
Patrol Crew Flight, later Crew
Patrol Leader Crew Leader Flight Pilot, later Crew Leader
Scribe Post Secretary Squadron Secretary

Air Scout Office Insignia, 1941-46
Squadron Leader, AS-05Squadron Leader Assistant Squadron Leader, AS-06Assistant Squadron Leader
Squadron Pilot, AS-11Squadron Pilot Assistant Squadron Pilot, AS-10Assistant Squadron Pilot
Flight Pilot, AS-09Flight Pilot Assistant Flight Pilot, AS-08Assistant Flight Pilot
Secretary,  NO PICTURE

 Revised Air Scout Office Insignia, 1947-on
Squadron Pilot, AE-10Squadron Pilot Assistant Squadron Pilot, AE-09Assistant Squadron Pilot
Secretary, AE-06Secretary

The basic manual for Air Scout was the Air Scout Manual, which went through several printings in the first couple of years.  Interesting enough, no more were printed after 1943!  One would expect that there would still be the need for manuals for several years, and especially after the revised advancement program a revised manual would have been produced.  What they did was drop in a short 16pg pamphlet called Air Scout Advancement Requirements (#3022) with the last printing, which gave the new requirements.

The only manual for adult leaders was the Hints to Squadron Leaders, which would be later replaced by the more generic Hints for Senior Scout Leadership.  Why nothing equivalent to a Scoutmaster Handbook was produced is unknown.

Various miscellaneous materials includes:
Air Scouting Development, 1941
Scouting and Aviation, 1941
Tentative Program Proposals, 1941
Air Scouting (pamphlet), #3472, 1942
Air Scouts, #3476, 1943
Air Scouts Contests, #4166
(if anyone has copies of these they'd like to share, it would be appreciated)
Air Scout Literature
Air Scout Manual (#3648)
Proof  1942, Feb
Proof  1942, Nov
1st      1942, Dec
2nd     1943, Jan 
3rd     1943, Feb
4th      1943, Feb   (442pg + viii preface)     25000243 
5th      1943, Apr   442p                              25000443
6th      1943, Oct    440p

paperback, written by W.H. Hunt

Air Scout Manual
Air Scout Merit Badge Pamphlets
   Aerodynamics (#3280)
      1942, July
      1943, Feb
      1943, Dec
   Aeronautics (#3306)
     1942, July
      1943, Feb
      1944, May 
   Airplane Design (#3281)
      1942, Aug
      1942, Dec
      1943, Feb
      1944, March
   Airplane Structure (#3279)
       1942, July
       1942, Dec
       1943, Feb

paperback, written by W.H. Hunt

Senior Scouting Program Notebook
1943 (shown)
1945 (shown)
1946 (shown)   128pg   10000
1946-47 (shown)  128pg  10000
1948-49 (shown)
1949-50 (shown)
Senior Scouting Program Notebook, 1943
Senior Scouting Program Notebook, 1946-47Senior Scouting Program Notebook, 1948-49
Hints to Squadron Leaders (#3195)
1st       1942    65pg
2nd      1943   119pg               10M343
Hints to Squadron Leaders, 1943 printing
Hints on Senior Scout Leadership
1st        1947    15000647
2nd       1948
3rd       1949

booklet, 94pg

Hints on Senior Scout Leadership
Miscellanous Air Scout Manuals
Air Scouting Development, 1941
Scouting and Aviation, 1941
Tentative Program Proposals, 1941
Air Scouting (pamphlet), #3472, 1942
Air Scouts, #3476, 1943 (shown)
Air Scouts Contests, #4166
Air Scout Advancement Requirements, #3022, 1946
Air Scout Leaders' Training Course Notebook (#4163)
Air Scout Leader's Training Course Guidebook (#4164)
Air Scouting #3472Air Scouts, #3476
Air Scout Leaders' Training Course- Notebook for Course MembersAir Scout Leader's Training Course- Guidebook for Course Leaders

year membership units ace awards
1942 2025 ? 0
1943 9549 ? 0
1944 11233 ? 0
1945 7856 ? 5
1946 7656 ? 23
1947 8539 ? 81
1948 6809 ? 95
1949 6055 ? 150

Statistics taken from BSA Annual Reports as given in Art Hyman's The Scout in Aviation

Updated: 06/21/2005mrb