By lex, on August 24th, 2011
Only one aircraft available to play today, and it went to my classmate out of courtesy, like. Myself having gone first the day prior. While the first “flight” in our transition syllabus involved a military power run to 80 KTS before executing a no-drag chute abort, today’s mission took us to 100 KTS in mid-range grunt. The brakes are designed to dissipate the aircraft’s kinetic energy by converting it into heat, and their ability to do so is limited by the thermal uptake capacity of the brake pads.
When my classmate came back to the line, his brakes were smoking noticeably, and it was thought right and prudent to leave the airplane be a while, specifically until 1530 this afternoon. When the time came, and was added to by the inevitable delays of aircraft turnaround, I hopped in and cranked her up in a way that – while it could not be rightly labelled “expeditious – did not redound to my discredit. Never mind the ejection seat pins, I told the crew chief. I’m not going flying.
She only had 400 liters of gas from the previous flight, and while I do not have a calculator at hand to tell you what that means in real units, the fuselage fuel needles were sufficiently depressed as to be nearly indistinguishable from the “you ain’t got none” mark. All would be well, I was assured, and sufficient to the day the evil thereof, so get you gone and so I did.
It taxied more sprightly with practically no fuel, and even at idle power I was forced to tap the brakes ever so often. At the hold short I went through my pre-takeoff checklists twice, just so’s to be sure. Took the runway, ran her up once to military power to check that every particular gauge knew and was obedient to its duty, and with clearance for the high-speed taxi test, ran her back up to mil and then to blower carrying 290 liters of go-juice.
She picked up speed right away as the engine spooled up, but when the blower lit I was pushed back in my seat so firmly that an inadvertent, “Jeebus, CRIES!” was wrenched from my lips, rattled around inside my O2 mask, and then dribbled out the vent valve. If you’ve ever had a CQ weight cat shot, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, imagine that… never mind.
We got to the briefed 100 knot abort speed before you could say “Bob’s yer uncle,” and it was time to throttle back out of blower, all the way to idle and jump on the binders, bringing the low fuel/low weight fighter to a graceful taxi speed prior to the runway end. Only the throttle refused to come out of afterburner. At all. Stuck.
Whistling down the runway, next to no gas, ejection seat not armed, distance remaining markers whipping by like they didn’t matter.
It took me two rapid attempts to pull the throttle back to idle before brain stem mode was overcome, and I was reminded that, no: This is not a Hornet. You have to crank the throttle’s inboard end up about 30 degrees above the horizontal to get into afterburner, and place it back down again to get back out. I’ve done it a dozen times in the power-off cockpit training we’ve experienced, but reverted to habit with my eyeballs pressed back into my head.
In much less time than it took to read that paragraph, I was back at idle, on the brakes and had the speedbrakes out just for good measure. I took a look at the drag chute lever, but with 4000 feet left to go at 80 KTs, decided that it was redundant. Taxied off with my legs shaking just that little bit, brought her back to the line and shut her down.
Once again, the brakes were smoking.
It was pretty exciting.