WW2 flying ace Sir Douglas Bader endangered other pilots with his tactics
Britain's most famous war time pilot, who lost both his legs in a crash, was an enthusiast for the so-called "Big wing" attack formation in which up to 60 aircraft swooped down on the enemy in a cluster.
But the new film, while acknowledging his brilliance as a flier, said that his adherence to the technique endangered the lives of other pilots and slowed down the attack.
Wing Commander Tom Neil, 93, who had 15 confirmed kills and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, told the Times: "They always arrived after the action.
"We would be arriving home with our tongues hanging out and we'd see these 60 aircraft in close formation coming overhead, going, 'Where is all the enemy?' Well, they'd all gone home."
"They were claiming 20, 25, 30 aircraft shot down but as far as we were concerned no aircraft were shot down. The claims by Big Wing always seemed exaggerated."
Large formations are said to be dangerous because of the risks of colliding with other aircraft while moving through the clouds.
It also took too long to bring all the pilots into formation meaning that they missed all the action.
"Big Wing was absolute nonsense," said another pilot.
The pilots lent their expertise to Heroes of the Skies, a series of six hour-long programmes which began last night on Channel 5.
Bader was able to persuade Air Vice-Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, who was in charge of defending the skies over the middle of England, that Big Wing would be a success.
Their plans were opposed by Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, who was in charge of defending London and the South East.
Park successfully argued that smaller groups were able to engage more quickly, but after the Battle of Britain he was outmanoeuvred politically and lost his position to Leigh-Mallory.
Sir Alan Smith, 95, Bader's wingman, defended Big Wing.
"It was very logical and very sensible," he said.
Sir Alan said that Bader, who scored at least 20 kills, was an inspirational figure regardless of the politics of Big Wing. "He was a marvellous leader, a brilliant pilot, a dead shot and everything you relished.
"He didn't just save my life, he saved a hell of a lot of lives."
Bader, who lost his legs in a crash before the war, was able to use his disability to his advantage in tight turns.
While the g-force would cause able-bodied pilots to blackout as blood rushed from their heads to their legs, Bader, who had both legs amputated after a crash in 1931, could recover more quickly.
Bader had to bail out over France in August 1941 and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war. His story was told in the film Reach for the Sky. He died in 1982.