Category Archives: Neptunus Lex

You Can’t Judge

By lex, on August 15th, 2009

Three flights today with the Barnstormers. The first with a couple of young men from Southwest England, sponsored by their parents while (whilst?) on holidays. My man was 12 years old, his brother a couple of years older. Mum and dad looked on with a pride generously admixtured with apprehension. This was a lovely gift for the young men. Would they ever come back, at all?

My guest pilot won two bouts out of three, because his staff pilot doesn’t care much for getting gunned. Mum and dad were pleased as punch to see them in the break after we came back. Off you go, after we’d landed. We done our paid work and brought the boys back safe and sound. The ‘rents clapped us on the shoulders, like. And went on their merry. I told chief pilot Bronco Chuck that it wasn’t a surprise, not really. Europeans aren’t much given to doling out gratuities.

They give at the office, and how.

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By lex, on August 6th, 2009


Non-approved usage.

Carrier Quals from Beeville, Texas, the story goes. A little bit of land left.

The student allegedly climbed “up” the F-9F advanced training jet before realizing that it was going to be hard getting past the still running engine exhaust. Had to climb back down again to shut her down again.


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Flanker Ops

By lex, on August 1st, 2009

And now, for something entirely different.

First impressions: An interesting video*, in that “not-quite-right” kind of way. I guess it’s what you get used to. The only thing wronger than that strange transition at the opener – did Russian archers really show that much thigh in battle? – was the flight deck crewman taxiing the Su-33 around without a float coat or cranial.

Pretty impressive pitch pulse capability with the canards. I have to wonder at all that slow speed maneuvering with the speed brake out. I’d be more impressed by the deck run capability and jump ramp if I didn’t know that the Flanker pilot has to download fuel and ordnance to make it happen. I guess you can get more fuel once airborne – the probe should be on the right side, by the way – but it’s harder to onload weapons once the wheels have left the deck.

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San Joaquin Travelogue

By lex, on July 17th, 2009

Flew the club Cardinal out of Montgomery yesterday afternoon for the flight to Hanford, California. The shoreline VFR transition route took me through LA’s Class B airspace and, having flown direct to Ventura to leave the Class B, I was free to pick my way across the low mountains guarding southern California from the central, San Joaquin valley. (For GA pilots planning cross-countries, AOPA‘s Internet Flight Planner is a lovely tool that, among other things, can show weather, winds aloft and route, both overhead and vertical profile. It’s nifty, and well-worth the annual $39 subscription service.)

Culture changes with geography out west, and as the densely populated coastal enclaves fell behind me a broad, and sparsely populated rural plain unfolded beneath me. The terrain is deceptively sere – the valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in America – and breathtakingly hot.

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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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Log Book

By lex, on November 2nd, 2008

I have been forced away from the laptop to the study by SWMBO v3.0, and while awaiting the creaking and wheezing of the ancient G4 Mac as it updated itself to the very latest standards of system software, my restless eyes fell on my military flight log books, sitting there on a shelf, dusty and seemingly uncared for.

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Thrice frightened

By lex, on June 5th, 2008

I was deeply engrossed in work this afternoon when Son Number One surreptitiously penetrated my vital area unobserved. I started when he spoke, and he smiled, asking if he’d frightened me.

I don’t frighten, I replied, with serene equanimity. Although occasionally I might startle.

But that’s not entirely true.

I’d label it perhaps more apprehension than fear, but my very first fifteen minutes in command of an FA-18 squadron was a very uncomfortable time. The outgoing CO had arranged for an air demo after the ceremony, flown by a legacy squadron pilot whom I didn’t know. Guy that was now instructing at the replacement squadron across the street. In one of my airplanes. The plan had been set in ink when he was in charge, but it would be executed under my command and if the whole thing went south it would have been me wearing it around my neck for the next 15 months.

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