Category Archives: Flying

Low Levels

By lex, on July 30th, 2009

There’s something almost addictive about high speed, low level flying. Watching the world unfold beneath you close at hand is undeniably thrilling, and the blur of the scenery as you get lower and lower is a great adrenaline rush.

Truth be told, I was never as big a fan of low level navigation as some of my buddies in naval aviation. There were guys who lived for flying low.

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An Old Lesson, Re-Learned

By lex, on May 2nd, 2009

Just the one flight today, and our passenger was a remarkable woman – a veteran sky diver – of some 50-odd summers enjoying the birthday present her husband gave her. Her adversary was a 17-year old man who told me that he had never flown before, but that he nevertheless knew how to fly. Having read about it in books and such. Video games, and so on. Flight simulators.

You can probably guess where this is going to go.

I had a bit of a challenge getting her to max perform the airplane in the familiarization phase. Hesitant on roll rates. Reluctant to crank on the (really, very modest) g-forces required to turn the machine. As opposed to merely rolling it.

She somehow managed to arrive at his six o’clock in firing position on the first hack. Himself having contrived to put his machine in deep buffet on the first turn. On the second fight I coached a little less, while easing a couple hundred RPM off the engine. Because everyone deserves at least one win.

On the third go, I left the engine up, spoke only a very little. “Ease g here. Now pull. Harder.” That sort of thing. And once again our adversary got greedy and put himself into wingrock and buffet. It was only a matter of time, and she quickly had the sight picture of lead and lag pursuit. Even if she didn’t quite roll the plane as fast as I might have liked, nor pulled as hard as she could have done.

There is something to be said for finessse.

 

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An “Avoidable” Mishap

By lex, on March 4th, 2009

The F/A-18 is a wonderfully simple aircraft for a pilot to merely fly, a fact made possible by its hideous internal complexity. This complexity is hidden from the pilot (thank God!) by brilliant engineering. After having once heard a lecture on the flight control system, I remarked to a companion that it reminded me of the Schleswig-Holstein dispute: Only three men had ever really understood it; one had died, another had gone mad and the third had forgotten everything.

One of the main innovations in the transition from the F/A-18A to the C-model was a motive flow system – essentially an eductor that uses forced fuel flow to move more fuel from place to place. The motive flow system was slightly more complicated (but much lighter) than the mechanically operated, engine driven boost pump it had replaced. From the pilot’s perspective however, fuel just moved when it was supposed to – the internal system is entirely automated, there are no switches to throw.

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Well, That Was “Interesting”

By lex, on February 20th, 2009

So, I putted down to Brown on a Friday afternoon, for to once again break the surly bonds of earth and cheat death, and so on. In a 65-HP “conventional” gear Champ. Such as which 62-year old airframe you have previously seen photographic evidence of.

Your man Eamonn was there, good man himself, a grandson of Ireland at 6′ 5″ (at least), slipping on a pair of low-cut Chuck Taylor’s, if only for the maneuverability that are in them. Hizzoner’s ankle-to-ground interconnect being of such luxurious abundance as to prohibit wearing more formal gear, whilst in the trunk. Getting all in the way, like.

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A bad weather day

By lex, on June 9th, 2004

Sometimes the mission doesn’t make much sense.

Sometimes you do it anyway.

Everyone has a store of sea stories that makes him looks like a hero.

This is not one of those.

Fighter aviation is mercilessly unforgiving of weakness of any sort, personal, professional, or character. The pressure to compete and succeed is remarkable – sometimes it can be fatal.

I loved it.

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Known Ice

By lex, on February 13th, 2009

Military aviators tend to look at commercial airline flying as the “easy” life. The machines are very highly automated with redundant systems, the pay is generally very good (0r used to be), and the bed waiting on the other end comes with room service. You never have to throw yourself at the ground with high explosive ordnance under the wings, people rarely shoot at you and – at least for the Navy guys – the runway doesn’t move. Once you’ve put the jet to bed, your “real work” isn’t waiting for you on the ground. Get the machine safely on deck at your destination and your real work is done.

Sure, there’s a lot of responsibility. A commercial airline pilot “on the line” has the lives of many, many people in his hands. But if he takes good care of the life occupying his own seat – and he’s motivated to, the pilot is the first guy to the scene of most accidents – everyone else should be OK as well.

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Neil Diamond lied!!!

By lex, on October 10th, 2003

It does rain in Southern California…

Rainy commute to the air station this morning. Kind of a tentative rain, like maybe it wasn’t sure this was entirely appropriate. Reduces the fun factor of motorcycle commutes by, oh twelve thousand percent. A bummer, but I made it there, and made it back, so all’s well, etc…

On a dry road, a bike can stop in about half the distance of a car, especially when it has ABS, like my bike does. The stopping force of the dual caliper brakes on two wheels when applied to the drastically reduced weight (as opposed to the standard car, with the usual appointments), sets up a very favorable ratio for dissipating kinetic energy. The reverse principle for thrust (torque) to weight makes it fun to hit the go switch, too.

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