A couple of data points


By lex, on September 28, 2008


The limits we impose on our Vargas for dogfighting are +/- 60 degrees of bank and +/- 30 degrees of pitch. Any more than that and we’d be in aerobatic flight, upping our insurance premiums and forcing the use of parachutes.

Which, who needs that?

I have come to the tentative conclusion that while demonstrating the bank angle limit is appropriate and in fact necessary (bank angle plus g turns the machine), demonstrating the pitch limits is probably a bad idea. I’ve got a very high correlation between showing a guest pilot the transition between 30 degrees nose high to 30 degrees nose low on a hot day – a self-evidently stomach churning sixty degree change taken all together – and himself speaking into the white plastic megaphone.

Jim the fadder it was today, and Jamie his own son, ten years old at a stretch. Both of whom embarked for to go flying full of piss and vinegar, but only one of whom came back flushed with victory. While the other one came back looking more or less like death warmed over, without the warming.

I won’t say which is which, but his initials were “D.A.D.”

He was actually a good sport through most of the hop, although clearly just this side of miserable – making a good show of it for his young man, I reckon – but lost the plot on the way back home.

I’d gotten acute of the rendezvous bearing line with another 45 degrees of turn or so to go between where we were and where we’d be going. We were about to enter Miramar’s class D airspace (embedded well within the San Diego class B), so it was all about hard altitudes and talking to tower during the transition. No time for fooling around trying to rejoin from the front, so I swooped into a hard, diving turn back to the bearing line, recovering with a nose-high, cross-controlled hai-yaka to perfect, stabilized position. Pretty dern proud of myself, too. Or was, at least, until I looked over my shoulder and saw your man having that one-way conversation.

So there’s that.

The second hop was another one hour “learn to fly” with Ken, a good fellah transplanted here from Boston. I asked – as I had to do – whether he was a Yankees fan, just for the inevitable testosterone surge that was in it. Nay, nay, good friend – bridle down. I was just having you on. It’s in my nature.

Level speed changes, turn patterns, power-off stalls. That sort of thing.

But then there was our man Earl the Pearl not so very far away, having rented of a company Varga on his own, and carrying with him a friend, like. Both of ‘em eager for a bit of the old swirl. As was our Ken, good man himself.

We met in the old accustomed place in a left to left pass, and got right down to it. All even Steven for the longest, until your correspondent got a wild hair up his, em, bonnet, and decided that it might be fun to lever the flaps down a bit and power above the fight, like.

It worked in the old A-4 Skyhawk, this manipulation of the flaps. One third to one half down below blowback speed (~300 knots) and hook the slats out below 250 and your properly handled scooter could turn inside it’s own rothole as many the incautious Hornet or Tomcat pilot learned to his dismay. We thumbed ‘em out in the F-5, and all of that took care of itself in the Hornet.

In the Varga Kachina, not so much, alas. I found that I could fly quite slowly while turning not at all. Not exactly a recipe for success, and once you’ve committed to lowering the flaps near the hard deck it isn’t like you can take them back up again and call for a do-over.

There’s a moment when you’re about to get your butt handed to you, but it hasn’t happened yet. You keep fighting because that’s what you do, but you know that it’s only a matter of time and in a secret place you want it all to just be over and done. Kill me, already.

It was like that.

Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.

Live and learn.


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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Flying, SoCal

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