By lex, on January 5th, 2007
Yeah, that’s a terrible pun. But it’s what came to mind when I read this email singing paeans to the F-22 Raptor, passed along through the service pipe:
OK – my first chance to let the F-22 loose on takeoff. I was the last IOT&E pilot at Edwards and it was only a few months before I was to move to Langley. The test folks were nice enough to still let me fly there occasionally, and they had a perfect mission for me. It was a single ship, no test support (control room) required, and I had my own tanker. All I had to do was takeoff and fly around for 2 hours collecting data from the MLD’s (missile launch detectors). In other words it was a free sortie with a lot of gas available and I had the airspace to myself since it didn’t matter what I did during the sortie, in fact more maneuvering was better to get data.
Having never had a chance to really see what the jet would be like on takeoff, and since I had a tanker to keep me full of gas, I decided to do a max performance takeoff and let it go straight up to see what it would do.
Edwards has that 15,000 foot runway, and an unlimited ceiling since it sits in a restricted airspace. So on taxi I asked for a max climb out to 25,000 feet, the controller said, 29,000? I said, sure that’ll work. I really had no idea what I’d end up with and with my Eagle time I figured I’d be lucky to get to 29,000. So I let it go to about 570 or so which was prior to the end of the runway and started a pull, not too much g, maybe 4 or 5, and went to 90 degrees nose high. I wasn’t really paying attention to the airspeed or altitude because I was really enjoying the view and the ride, it was amazing. I started to feel a little buffet and looked inside to see what the deal was, expecting that I was starting to slow down to the point where I was getting the same kind of buffet you feel as the jet slows down and a little alpha starts to build on the wings, that’s how it goes in a Eagle too. Well, there’s also a little buffet in the Raptor when your about to go supersonic, and to my surprise, and I started laughing, the jet was at .99 mach and trying it’s best to punch through to supersonic flight, straight up, passing about 18 or 19 thousand feet or so, it began a slow deceleration as I stared in awe at the HUD mach indication and at 94 mach I realized I was at 25,000 and was going to blast way through my altitude, so I rolled and started a 4 to 5 g pull to level out, which of course didn’t work and I leveled at about 31,500 feet at about 330knots (don’t know why those numbers stick in my head but they do). Now for you pilots out there, you know when you pull g, especially at higher altitudes and heavy weight, it’s a fairly energy depleting event.
So go figure, I’m FULLY loaded with fuel at takeoff, ALL of the weapons bays were loaded, so I am in my combat configuration, in a regular line jet, no tweaks, no special modifications, no weight taken out (as in the Streak Eagle or Mig 25 flights, etc.), nothing, just a line jet any old pilot could step to and fly. So I talked to the engineers and with some quick math they guessed I could have topped out in the low 60 thousand numbers. That wasn’t flying a special profile like other jets have either (Rutowski profile – misspelled?), it was just a pull to the nose straight up. This…jet…is…a…monster!!”
Transonic in a vertical departure? At 18,000 feet?
Sometimes I feel like I was born twenty years too early.