Tag: Flying

More on the SR-71, Part 2

The second part of the guest post by Captain Dave Jones. Ed.

Part One was yesterday which I introduced as follows:

The SR-71, a truly great aircraft

John’s couple of articles about the SR-71 here and here reminded me of the time that I was given an article by my instructor at Mojave. He was a military test pilot and ended up with NASA and he was one of a select few to fly the Blackbird as a civilian….a great chap to talk to…  I continue with Part 2

     The SR-71 was an expensive aircraft to operate. The most significant
cost was tanker support, and in 1990, confronted with budget cutbacks, the
Air Force retired the SR-71. The Blackbird had outrun nearly 4,000 missiles,
not once taking a scratch from enemy fire. On her final flight, the
Blackbird, destined for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, sped
from Los Angeles to Washington in 64 minutes, averaging 2,145 mph and
setting four speed records. 

        The SR-71 served six presidents, protecting America for a quarter of
a century. Unbeknownst to most of the country, the plane flew over North
Vietnam, Red China, North Korea, the Middle East, South Africa, Cuba,
Nicaragua, Iran, Libya, and the Falkland Islands. On a weekly basis, the
SR-71 kept watch over every Soviet nuclear submarine and mobile missile
site, and all of their troop movements. It was a key factor in winning the
Cold War. 

 Read the final part of this great story

More on the SR-71, Part 1

This is a guest post from Captain Dave Jones.  Dave and I go back many years to the time when I was studying for my Instrument Rating, a flying rating that allows one to fly in the same airspace as commercial aircraft.  He is what I call a Total Aviation Person!  Dave read the posts from John Lewis about the SR-71 and mentioned that he had once had a instructor at Mojave Airport, California who had been a civilian SR-71 pilot.  Ed.

The SR-71

The SR-71, a truly great aircraft

John’s couple of articles about the SR-71 here and here reminded me of the time that I was given an article by my instructor at Mojave. He was a military test pilot and ended up with NASA and he was one of a select few to fly the Blackbird as a civilian….a great chap to talk to…

This is his article [broken into two posts because of its length. Ed.] with an intro from my instructor.

Awesome story about a truly great aircraft. I only let it go as high as Mach 3.27 once (the design speed was 3.2) but it could do all that is in this story, Cheers, Rogers

In April 1986, following an attack on American soldiers in a Berlin
disco, President Reagan ordered the bombing of Muammar Qaddafi's terrorist
camps in Libya. My duty was to fly over Libya and take photos recording the
damage our F-111s had inflicted. Qaddafi had established a "line of death,"
a territorial marking across the Gulf of Sidra, swearing to shoot down any
intruder that crossed the boundary. On the morning of April 15, I rocketed
past the line at 2,125 mph. 

        I was piloting the SR-71 spy plane, the world's fastest jet,
accompanied by Maj. Walter Watson, the aircraft's reconnaissance systems
officer (RSO). We had crossed into Libya and were approaching our final turn
over the bleak desert landscape when Walter informed me that he was
receiving missile launch signals. I quickly increased our speed, calculating
the time it would take for the weapons-most likely SA-2 and SA-4
surface-to-air missiles capable of Mach 5 - to reach our altitude. I
estimated that we could beat the rocket-powered missiles to the turn and
stayed our course, betting our lives on the plane's performance. 

 Read more about this amazing story

Man proposes, nature disposes.

A salutary reminder of the power of nature

This is being written at 15:00 UTC on Tuesday, 20th April.  It’s still anyone’s guess as to when the airspace that commercial aircraft fly in will be free from volcanic fallout.

Nature disposing

Based in Arizona but planning to fly to the UK in about three weeks, it’s also very frustrating finding really good, accurate information to help one think through plans and back-up plans.

But here’s a web site for UK glider (sailplane) pilots that goes a very long way to providing really solid information.  Check it out. (And, once again, thanks to Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism for finding the site.)

Well done GlideMet.

By Paul Handover (ex British Gliding Association pilot/instructor.)

Amazing accuracy

Better navigational accuracy in the air may be approaching its limits.

For passengers travelling with scheduled airlines, times have changed, sadly, and no longer can you visit the flight deck, and see from there the views that pilots get.

New meaning to the term 'on track'.

It was not so long ago, that aircraft navigation was carried out using beacons on the ground, either on VHF, or Medium wavebands.

For longer trips with no ground aids a Navigator would plot your route using Astro (sun or the stars) navigation, until companies like Decca produced other radio systems to give you a position, but these from my memory had their problems.

Today in the modern aircraft we have Inertial Navigation Systems using laser gyros together with radio VHF back up, taking cross cuts from beacons, coupled with Distance measuring equipment to pinpoint your position, and now the magic Global Positioning System (GPS) with it`s startling accuracy.

Often with only 1000 feet between, you can see aircraft either above, or below you, often on the same track. This picture of an Emirates airline Airbus A380 was taken northbound over Turkey. The trails left behind are ice crystals which are left by the water vapour that passes through the engine, and freezes immediately at temperatures of some minus 60 degrees C.

The vortex from the wings causes the rotating trail from each engine to be disturbed, and if you pass through such disturbed air following the wake of another aircraft you often get a bump as your aircraft will be travelling at 500 MPH, some 7 miles per minute, a closing speed of 1000MPH if heading towards each other.

As the accuracy is so good these days, airlines have taken to introducing an offset of one or two miles to the left or right of track, just in case there is an error of timing, or in severe turbulence an aircraft could lose or gain the amount of separation which is between machines.

I think we get the best seats in the house!

By Bob Derham

[Bob is a Captain on a privately operated Airbus A319. Ed.]

Captain Eric Brown. MBE, OBE, CBE, DSC, AFC.

Now Think Sound Barrier!

I was excited to see details of a lecture held recently in Glasgow, recounting the Struggle to Break the Sound Barrier.  [Nice history on WikiPedia, Ed]

FA-18 breaking sound barrier

How easy it is today to jump into an aircraft, and expect to fly safely round the world in the luxury of an arm chair 7 miles or more above the surface of the earth, or know that the modern aircraft of our Air Forces can fly on every limit known, in the knowledge that all the aerodynamic tests and trials have been carried out.

Eric Brown is now 92. He gave up his wings at 70, but still 22 years later is lecturing on a subject which was at the time uncharted territory, a race to fly faster than Mach1, the Speed of Sound. Chuck Yeager got there first, but now ponder the following.

Captain “Winkle” Brown was with the Royal Navy for 31 years, much of it as an outstanding test pilot.

He flew 487 different types, (not variants) and made 2407 Aircraft Carrier landings, both World records.

At University he studied German, so at the end of the war as a linguist he interrogated many leading German aviation personalities such as Willy Messerschmitt, Ernst Heinkel, and Hanna Reitsch..

Capt. Eric Brown

What an interesting life, and still with stories to tell, and knowledge to pass on. There’s a lovely interview with Capt. Brown here.

By Bob Derham

SR-71 Blackbird breakup at Mach 3.18!

More on that truly amazing aviation survival

Yesterday, I wrote a brief Post about the story retold by Bill Weaver, Chief Test Pilot at Lockheed.  For those that read the Post but didn’t click through to the full article, here it is.

It comes from the aviation website The Digital Aviator and I trust that republishing it once again doesn’t offend.


By Bill Weaver

Chief Test Pilot, Lockheed

Among professional aviators, there’s a well-worn saying: Flying is simply hours of boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror. But I don’t recall too many periods of boredom during my 30-year career with Lockheed, most of which was spent as a test pilot. By far, the most memorable flight occurred on Jan. 25, 1966.

Jim Zwayer, a Lockheed flight-test specialist, and I were evaluating systems on an SR-71 Blackbird test from Edwards. We also were investigating procedures designed to reduce trim drag and improve high-Mach cruise performance The latter involved flying with the center-of-gravity (CG) located further aft than normal, reducing the Blackbird’s longitudinal stability.

We took off from Edwards at 11:20 a.m. and completed the mission’s first leg without incident. After refueling from a KC-135 tanker, we turned eastbound, accelerated to a Mach 3.2 cruise speed and climbed to 78,000 ft., our initial cruise-climb altitude.

Several minutes into cruise, the right engine inlet’s automatic control system malfunctioned, requiring a switch to manual control. The SR-71’s inlet configuration was automatically adjusted during supersonic flight to decelerate airflow in the duct, slowing it to subsonic speed before reaching the engine’s face. This was accomplished by the inlet’s center-body spike translating aft, and by modulating the inlet’s forward bypass doors.

Normally, these actions were scheduled automatically as a function of Mach number, positioning the normal shock wave (where air flow becomes subsonic) inside the inlet to ensure optimum engine performance. Without proper scheduling, disturbances inside the inlet could result in the shock wave being expelled forward- a phenomenon known as an “inlet unstart.”

That causes an instantaneous loss of engine thrust, explosive banging noises and violent yawing of the aircraft, like being in a train wreck. Unstarts were not uncommon at that time in the SR-71’s development, but a properly functioning system would recapture the shock wave and restore normal operation.

On the planned test profile, we entered a programmed 35-deg. bank turn to the righ t. An immediate unstart occurred on the right engine, forcing the aircraft to roll further right and start to pitch up. I jammed the control stick as far left and forward as it would go. No response. I instantly knew we were in for a wild ride. I attempted to tell Jim what was happening and to stay with the airplane until we reached a lower speed and altitude. I didn’t think the chances of surviving an ejection at Mach 3.18 and 78,800 ft. were very good. However, g-forces built up so rapidly that my words came out garbled and unintelligible, as confirmed later by the cockpit voice recorder.

The cumulative effects of system malfunctions, reduced longitudinal stability, increased angle-of-attack in the turn, supersonic speed, high altitude and other factors imposed forces on the airframe that exceeded flight control authority and the stability augmentation system’s ability to restore control.

Everything seemed to unfold in slow motion. I learned later the time from event onset to catastrophic departure from controlled flight was only 2-3 seconds. Still trying to communicate with Jim, I blacked out, succumbing to extremely high g-forces.

Then the SR-71 literally disintegrated around us. From that point, I was just along for the ride. And my next recollection was a hazy thought that I was having a bad dream. Maybe I’ll wake up and get out of this mess, I mused. Gradually regaining consciousness, I realized this was no dream; it had really happened. That also was disturbing, because I COULD NOT HAVE SURVIVED what had just happened.
I must be dead. Since I didn’t feel bad- just a detached sense of euphoria- I decided being dead wasn’t so bad after all. As full awareness took hold, I realized I was not dead. But somehow I had separated from the airplane.

I had no idea how this could have happened; I hadn’t initiated an ejection. The sound of rushing air and what sounded like straps flapping in the wind confirmed I was falling, but I couldn’t see anything. My pressure suit’s face plate had frozen over and I was staring at a layer of ice.

The pressure suit was inflated, so I knew an emergency oxygen cylinder in the seat kit attached to my parachute harness was functioning. It not only supplied breathing oxygen, but also pressurized the suit, preventing my blood from boiling at extremely high altitudes. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but the suit’s pressurization had also provided physical protection from intense buffeting and g-forces. That inflated suit had become my own escape capsule

My next concern was about stability and tumbling. Air density at hi gh altitude is insufficient to resist a body’s tumbling motions, and centrifugal forces high enough to cause physical injury could develop quickly. For that reason, the SR-71’s parachute system was designed to automatically deploy a small-diameter stabilizing chute shortly after ejection and seat separation. Since I had not intentionally activated the ejection system–and assuming all automatic functions depended on a proper ejection sequence–it occurred to me the stabilizing chute may not have deployed.

However, I quickly determined I was falling vertically and not tumbling. The little chute must h ave deployed and was doing its job. Next concern: the main parachute, which was designed to open automatically at 15,000 ft. Again I had no assurance the automatic-opening function would work.

I couldn’t ascertain my altitude because I still couldn’t see through the iced-up faceplate. There was no way to know how long I had been blacked-out or how far I had fallen. I felt for the manual-activation D-ring on my chute harness, but with the suit inflated and my hands numbed by cold, I couldn’t locate it. I decide d I’d better open the faceplate, try to estimate my height above the ground, then locate that “D” ring. Just as I reached for the faceplate, I felt the reassuring sudden deceleration of main-chute deployment.

I raised the frozen faceplate and discovered its uplatch was broken. Using one hand to hold that plate up, I saw I was descending through a clear, winter sky with unlimited visibility. I was greatly relieved to see Jim’s parachute coming down about a quarter of a mile away. I didn’t think either of us could have survived the aircraft’s breakup, so se eing Jim had also escaped lifted my spirits incredible.I could also see burning wreckage on the ground a few miles from where we would land. The terrain didn’t look at all inviting–a desolate, high plateau dotted with patches of snow and no signs of habitation.

I tried to rotate the parachute and look in other directions. But with one hand devoted to keeping the face plate up and both hands numb from high-altitude, subfreezing temperatures, I couldn’t manipulate the risers enough to turn Before the bre akup, we’d started a turn in the New Mexico-Colorado-Oklahoma-Texas border region. The SR-71 had a turning radius of about 100 miles at that speed and altitude, so I wasn’t even sure what state we were going to land in. But, because it was about 3:00 p.m., I was certain we would be spending the night out here.

At about 300 ft. above the ground, I yanked the seat kit’s release handle and made sure it was still tied to me by a long lanyard. Releasing the heavy kit ensured I wouldn’t land with it attached to my derriere, which could break a leg or cause other injuries. I then tried to recall what survival items were in that kit, as well as techniques I had been taught in survival training.
Looking down, I was startled to see a fairly large animal- perhaps an antelope- directly under me. Evidently, it was just as startled as I was because it literally took off in a cloud of dust.

My first-ever parachute landing was pretty smooth. I landed on fairly soft ground, managing to avoid rocks, cacti and antelopes. My chute was still billowing in the wind, though. I struggled to collapse it with one hand, holding the still-frozen faceplate up with the other.“Can I help you? ” a voice said. Was I hearing things? I must be hallucinating. Then I looked up and saw a guy walking toward me, wearing a cowboy hat. A helicopter was idling a short distance behind him. If I had been at Edwards and told the search-and-rescue unit that I was going to bail out over the Rogers Dry Lake at a particular time of day, a crew couldn’t have gotten to me as fast as that cowboy-pilot had.
The gentleman was Albert Mitchell, Jr., owner of a huge cattle ranch in northeastern New Mexico. I had landed about 1.5 mi. from his ranch house–and from a hangar for his two-place Hughes helicopter. Amazed to see him, I replied I was having a little trouble with my chute. He walked over and collapsed the canopy, anchoring it with several rocks. He had seen Jim and me floating down and had radioed the New Mexico Highway Patrol, the Air Force and the nearest hospital.
Extracting myself from the parachute harness, I discovered the source of those flapping-strap noises heard on the way down. My seat belt and shoulder harness were still draped around me, attached and latched.
The lap belt had been shredded on each side of my hips, where the straps had fed through knurled adjustment rollers. The shoulder harness had shredded in a similar manner across my back. The ejection seat had never left the airplane. I had been ripped out of it by the extreme forces, with the seat belt and shoulder harness still fastened.

I also noted that one of the two lines that supplied oxygen to my pressure suit had come loose, and the other was barely hanging on. If that second line had become detach ed at high altitude, the deflated pressure suit wouldn’t have provided any protection. I knew an oxygen supply was critical for breathing and suit-pressurization, but didn’t appreciate how much physical protection an inflated pressure suit could provide.
That the suit could withstan d forces sufficient to disintegrate an airplane and shred heavy nylon seat belts, yet leave me with only a few bruises and minor whiplash was impressive. I truly appreciated having my own little escape capsule.

After helping me with the chute, Mitchell said he’d check on Jim. He climbed into his helicopter, flew a short distance away and returned about 10 minutes later with devastating news: Jim was dead. Apparently, he had suffered a broken neck during the aircraft’s disintegration and was killed instantly. Mitchell said his ranch foreman would soon arrive to watch over Jim’s body until the authorities arrived. I asked to see Jim and, after verifying there was nothing more that could be done, agreed to let Mitchell fly me to the Tucumcari hospital, about 60 mi. to the south.

I have vivid memories of that helicopter flight, as well. I didn’t know much about rotorcraft, but I knew a lot about “red lines,” and Mitchell kept the airspeed at or above red line all the way. The little helicopter vibrated and shook a lot more than I thought it should have. I tried to reassure the cowboy-pilot I was feeling OK; there was no need to rush. But since he’d notified the hospital staff that we were inbound, he insisted we get there as soon as possible. I couldn’t help but think how ironic it would be to have survived one disaster only to be done in by the helicopter that had come to my rescue.
However, we made it to the hospital safely–and quickly. Soon, I was able to contact Lockheed’s flight test office at Edwards. The test team there had been notified initially about the loss of radio and radar contact, then told the aircraft had been lost They also knew what our flight conditions had been at the time, and assumed no one could have survived. I explained what had happened, describing in fairly accurate detail the flight conditions prior to breakup.

The next day, our flight profile was duplicated on the SR-71 flight simulator at Beale AFB, Calif. The outcome was identical. Steps were immediately taken to prevent a recurrence of our accident. Testing at a CG aft of normal limits was discontinued, and trim-drag issues were subsequently resolved via aerodynamic means. The inlet control system was continuously improved and, with subsequent development of the Digital Automatic Flight and Inlet Control System, inlet unstarts became rare.

sr71cockpit Investigation of our accident revealed that the nose section of the aircraft had broken off aft of the rear cockpit and crashed about 10 mi from the main wreckage. Parts were scattered over an area approximately 15 miles long and 10 miles wide. Extremely high air loads and g-forces, both positive and negative, had literally ripped Jim and me from the airplane. Unbelievably good luck is the only explanation for my escaping relatively unscathed from that disintegrating aircraft.

Two weeks after the accident, I was back in an SR-71, flying the first sortie on a brand-new bird at Lockheed’s Palmdale, Calif., assembly and test facility It was my first flight since the accident, so a flight test engineer in the back seat was probably a little apprehensive about my state of mind and confidence.

As we roared do wn the runway and lifted off, I heard an anxious voice over the intercom.

“Bill! Bill! Are you there?”
“Yeah, George. What’s the matter?”

“Thank God! I thought you might have left.”

The rear cockpit of the SR-71 has no forward visibility–only a small window on each side–and George couldn’t see me. A big red light on the master-warning panel in the rear cockpit had illuminated just as we rotated, stating: “Pilot Ejected.” Fortunately, the cause was a misadjusted micro switch, not my departure.


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Bill Weaver flight-tested all models of the Mach-2 F-104 Starfighter and the entire family of Mach 3+ Blackbirds–the A-12, YF-12 and SR-71. He subsequently was assigned to Lockheed’s L-1011 project as an engineering test pilot, and became the company’s chief pilot. He later retired as Division Manager of Commercial Flying Operations.

He still flies Orbital Sciences Corp.’s L-1011, which has been modified to carry the Pegasus satellite-launch vehicle. And as an FAA Designated Engineering Representative Flight Test Pilot, he’s also involved in various aircraft-modification projects, conducting certification flight tests.

By John Lewis

Captain Thomas Murray – RIP

Regular readers of Learning from Dogs will know that we usually only post a single article on week-end days.  But yesterday I received news that a business friend of many years standing had lost his battle against ill-health and died peacefully in the afternoon.  His name was Tom Murray and it’s my wish to celebrate his life by reproducing in full the email that was sent to me. It’s serendipitous that the planned posts by John Lewis for this week-end are aviation related.

Capt. Tom Murray

On Thursday afternoon the world lost a respected, influential, and creative aviator, one of the “Great Ones”.

Captain Thomas Murray was a pilot, artist, inventor, musician, and father.

A noted jet pilot, he explored the far corners of the globe, mapping out the Canadian Arctic, flying thousands of hours in Africa, Europe, the Himalayas, and the Americas.

Whether flying Gulf streams, Falcon, Hawkers, Learjets or old DC3s, Tom was a pilot’s pilot, the friendly, knowledgeable kind of guy who knew his craft so thoroughly that airmen the world over would “just call Tom”, whenever they needed answers.

He thrilled everyone he met with exciting stories of his travels…

…such as the time he found himself lost while flying over what should have been a large African lake, only to realize the lake had dried up. The only hope of finding civilization was to dead-reckon his way in a straight line and hope he hit the tiny “dot of a town” that was his final destination.

…Or the time his oxygen system failed in the Himalayas at 20,000 feet forcing him to dive the airplane into an 8000-foot valley to find out he was the only conscious crewmember.

…Or the time the entire front panel of his Hawker 800 fell onto his lap during takeoff because someone had forgotten to screw it in.

An adventurer to the max, he was also an inventor and visionary.

Tom took an ordinary problem such as converting hard-to-read aircraft performance charts into easy-to-read tables, and then turned that process into a successful business.

Tom created one of the first electronic documents to find its way into a cockpit – tables of aircraft performance data that minimized the chance of pilot error due to miscalculation that he called “EPADS”.

Constantly working to organize the cockpit, provide higher levels of safety and better information to the pilots, he invented one of the world’s first electronic flight bags, and established the process of managing aircraft electronic checklists, a process that the FAA later modeled their ECL guidelines after.

He joked that the entire cockpit should have a mode that turned it into a simulator during flight to alleviate boredom amongst pilots and give them a chance to train in truly challenging simulations during long flights.

He invented games for children, played flute, and wrote a storybook.

An accomplished artist, he relaxed by attending artist workshops and amazing all with his skill and precision. Just last summer, Tom held his first art exhibition.

His greatest creation with wife Daisy was his son, Thomas Alexander Murray, who was born with the charismatic smile and sense of mischief that characterized Tom at his best.

Tom’s inventions were his “other child”.  He would latch onto a design problem like a pit bull.

He cherished the fact that he would uncompromisingly focus on a design and refuse to leave it go it until it was “perfect”, even to his own financial detriment when those around him insisted he was losing sight of the “big picture”.

To this effect, during his last year, he asked me to form a foundation in his name, to offer an annual award (which I’ll see if it’s possible to do)…

“To the individual who focuses on solving difficult problems; who is clearly addicted to finding the solution; who is unrelenting in the face of opposition – which may seem to be (or genuinely be) to their own personal detriment”

Perhaps he wanted an award, he knew he’d win!

Tom was well known for acting as “pilot in command” in his daily life, often forcing people to act “my way or the highway” and insisting that his way was the “right way”.

While this trait was annoying and frustrating to colleagues and friends, what was possibly more frustrating was the number of times one was forced to humble oneself when he was indeed “right”.

In the last year of his life, Tom worked relentlessly to teach others his design philosophy and prepare several of us to run the company he’d created, the vessel that would carry his vision and concern for the safety of his fellow pilots into the future.

Tom loved life and spent his days on a personal mission to make the world a better place, a more interesting place, a more ordered place, a more beautiful place, a more fun place to live…

Tom wasn’t always too clear with his emotions, and though he often maintained a “business” exterior, at heart he was the artist, and his appreciation and depth of love for his family, fellow pilots, and the people who worked for him and with him, his friends — was endless.

You always knew when he respected you, he’d give you a big pilot’s “Thumbs up!”

We will miss him dearly.

Today, we salute a great airman, Captain Thomas Murray.

On behalf of Tom, I know he would wish you a warm, “Thumbs up!”

Charles Guerin President
On-Board Data Systems (OBDS)

The Hawker Hunter aircraft

What a beautiful aircraft!

On April 2nd, I published an account of a flight in a Hawker Hunter that my dear cousin, Richard, experienced in 2003, the 50th anniversary of Neville Duke’s breaking of the existing world speed record on September 7th, 1953.  Neville Duke died in 2007 at the age of 85.

Squadron Leader Neville Duke, 85, flew 485 operational sorties during the war

It seemed fitting to add a little more information about this marvellous aircraft from an era when Britain built some of the best aircraft in the world.

As always, WikiPedia has an excellent account of the history of the aircraft.  So this Post will just present a few images for readers to ooh, aah over!

Thunder and Lightnings has some excellent images of all the different types including WB188 that Duke broke the speed record in.

Copyright 2009 Damien Burke

F.3 WB188, Hawker Aircraft, RAF Tangmere, 1953; author
As at 7th September 1953, when World Absolute Speed Record of 722.2 mph gained by Neville Duke; pointed nose, reheated engine, additional curved/raked windscreen
Later scheme of Scarlet Red

There is also a distant connection with our erstwhile editor, Paul.  Paul used to fly a TB2o from Exeter Airfield in SW England which is where the Hunter Club is based.  Jonathan Whaley, who commanded the Hunter that Richard flew in, has his own personal Hunter – Miss Demeanour – registration G-PSST so during the summer months it was not uncommon to see Hunters in the sky above Exeter.

Hawker Hunter 'Miss Demeanour'

Finally, a couple of videos to drool over.

and a lovely display at RAF Waddington in rather unpleasant weather conditions

Wonderfully nostalgic!

By Bob Derham

The Flirting Pilot

A departure from economics!

I have hit a man only once in my adult life. Only once, but this was a full-out, closed-fist, knock-you-off-your-feet slug that dared him to come back for more. And he didn’t. One slug did it! How empowering!

Bob (name changed) took me and George (my then-fiancé and now ex-husband) for a ride in a four-seat plane above the skyline in downtown Dallas, Texas late one summer night when the skies were dark and the stars were bright.

Private Plane

Bob was a friend of Allen, who was a very good friend of mine and an accomplished private pilot who had introduced me to the joys of flying. Allen trusted Bob and I trusted Allen, so I was not unusually concerned about Bob’s ability to get us back down safely. But I hadn’t factored in Bob’s judgment, or lack thereof.

I think, in hindsight, that Bob had hoped I would show up for the ride alone despite the  fact that I had arranged it as a surprise for George. The plan was for George to sit up front and play co-pilot.  Upon arrival at the hanger, however, Bob promptly stuck George in the back seat of the plane and then turned his full attention to me.  I’m usually fairly dense to these things, but it was apparent even to me that Bob considered this to be a  “date.”  He was charming, animated and very friendly, while virtually ignoring George’s very existence.  We reviewed the safety measures, checked out the plane, and away we went.

Bob was showing me a series of maneuvers, swooping and banking and it was all lovely and exciting until…..a sudden plunge…..and everything instantly blacked out.  It was very disorienting — even though my eyes were  wide open and I was totally conscious, I could not see a thing.

The sirens started blaring; a recorded voice shouted “Stall! Stall! Stall!”  I called to George but he didn’t answer. Either he was unconscious or couldn’t hear me over the noise, but I wasn’t sure which.  I reached out to Bob, but he was unresponsive and felt limp.  Now I was really worried.  Momentarily terrified, actually, with that cold feeling of raw fear in the pit of my stomach.  I thought to myself, “If I am blacked out and cannot see, then HE, the, um, PILOT,  might be blacked out as well!”

I had what seemed like a very long time to ponder what I could do to survive this emergency, and keep George alive, who was there because of me!  I tried to feel my way along the control panel to find the radio to call out “May Day,” but that wasn’t going too well. Somehow — I don’t know how because I still could not see! — Bob got us out of the descent, pulling the nose up and righting the plane.   The sirens and warnings stopped.  After a few more moments, my vision came back, and my stomach returned to its rightful place.  We landed in one piece.

But when ole’ Bob got out of the pilot’s seat and walked around the plane to help me exit, I had a little surprise for him. Actually, it was a surprise for me, too, because I didn’t plan it and didn’t “see” or “feel” it coming. The next thing I knew I had drawn my right arm back, made a fist, and threw it into his left shoulder with everything I had. POW!

He stumbled, grabbed his arm, and said “Ow! What did you do THAT for?”  Well, I didn’t think I had to explain how I thought he had just put my life and that of a friend in danger just to show off.  I didn’t think he would see it the way I did, that he had flown that plane beyond his ability to control it. And even if he was in control the entire time, which I doubted, he scared the bajeebees out of me which was reason enough for me to sock him one!

I don’t recommend physical violence, even if the assailant is half the size of the perpetrator, but I have to tell you that to my knowledge, Bob never took another unsuspecting victim up for a little spin around the tops of buildings in downtown Dallas.   And I know that if I ever really need to wind it up and let her go, I do have it in me.

By Sherry Jarrell

A flight in a Hawker Hunter

A personal story about a wonderful flying experience.

This is a tale about my cousin Richard.  He has never been a pilot but has always been fascinated in flying.  He was reminiscing the other day about an event in a lifetime, flying in a military jet.  But this was no ordinary jet, this was the iconic Hawker Hunter.

These are Richard’s words.

It all started early in 2003. Lynne and I decided to take her son Henry and his friend to Tangmere Air Museum.

We were looking around, and were particularly taken by the bright red Hawker Hunter (WB188), in which Neville Duke had broken the world speed record on 7th September 1953, between Littlehampton and Worthing piers.

The curator of the museum was listening to us, and said – ‘Sad, isn’t it, we were hoping to have a 50th anniversary re-run of the flight. We have the aeroplane and the pilot, but nobody will sponsor us the fuel‘.

In the way that Lynne does, she just said ‘That’s alright, Richard will sponsor you the fuel!’

Well, that was all very well, but how much would it cost?

Anyway, to cut a long story short, a cheque for £1,600 ($2,400) was sent to the Hunter Flying Club at Exeter, which was followed by a telephone call from them. Basically, they said they were going to use a 2 seat Hunter, and as I had paid for the fuel, would I like the left hand seat!!!

On the morning of 7th September, I drove to Exeter Airport, and was introduced to the ground crew, and to the pilot Jonathan Whaley, who has his own multi-coloured Hunter ‘Miss Demeanor’, which I am sure you will have seen on the air display circuits.

WV322 looked stunning with newly painted top, tail and fuel tanks in gleaming red to remind us of WB188, which was painted bright red so that it could be easily seen by the timekeepers.

Settling into the LH seat!

After an hours tuition on the use of the ejector seat, the time came to be shoe-horned into the cockpit, and we taxied out. Special permission had been given for us to take-off towards the East, even though the pattern for the day was to the West. This was to save as much fuel as possible, as we had a long way to go!

A very smooth take-off, and a cruise at approx 3000 feet along the south coast to Chichester, followed by a sudden turn to the left and a dive into Goodwood, where the Revival Meeting was taking place. After nearly taking the roof off the Grandstand, a climbing turn and a low pass over Tangmere (where Neville Duke was watching), and on towards Selsea Bill.

Hunter and me!

A sharp left turn, and we were on our way past Littlehampton, and on towards Worthing Pier, where family and friends were waiting.

Well! We passed Worthing Pier at about 400 knots and at 400 feet, immediately going up into a Derry turn and pulling 4G!

It was unbelievable. I remember seeing the sea a few feet above my head, followed by the pebbles on the beach, at which point I thought ‘He’s never going to get round to the end of the pier – he’s going straight across the town!’

Of course, I was wrong, and we made a slower run back past the pier, and Jonathan gave a nice little ‘Wing Waggle’ for the people watching.

Back to Selsea Bill, and Jonathan said to me that he had heard that Neville Duke had actually done three Victory rolls across Tangmere to celebrate. ‘O.K., we’ll do the same

Three very sharp rolls later, and he realised he had ‘rolled’ over the wrong greenhouses!. (Tangmere these days is covered in greenhouses). So, three more very tight rolls – this time in the correct place – before a fast run back into Goodwood before a sharp climb and three more rolls – wow! Nine rolls in a matter of seconds!

A turn towards the Solent, and we formated with a Russion Yak, with rear cockpit open, and a photographer giving Jonathan instructions so that he could get a good variety of shots.

YAK - photo platform!

Then, with limited fuel, it was time to go. Imagine how I felt when Jonathan handed me the controls! All my birthdays had come at once!

As we approached Exeter, the weather was closing in. We just had time for Jonathan to play his favourite game – Up over a big cumulus cloud, down the other side, banking hard through a small gap between the clouds.

At this point, I confess that the negative ‘G’ had the cold sweat appearing on my forehead. Then it was back into Exeter and a smooth landing, braking hard before the end of the runway.

That’s fine‘ said Jonathan, ‘We’ve still got 7 minutes fuel left‘. Sensing my concern, he added, ‘Don’t worry – You can go a long way in 7 minutes in one of these!!

Taxiing back to our stand, followed by being told to keep still while the ‘seat’ was disarmed, and a shaky me made my way down the ladder onto the ground, where I was offered a cup of tea – it was wonderful. The grin on my face stretched from ear to ear.

The total flight was 70 minutes, and it is 70 minutes of my life that I will never forget

Rather than dilute Richard’s account here, I will add another article with some general background information on the Hunter in the next few days.

By Bob Derham