Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Philip's Aerobatic Flight

The last flight for the course is a series of aerobatic maneuvers to expose us to a mild form of the stresses that pilots experience during basic fighter maneuvers.  The Cirrus SR22 that we had been flying is not able to complete aerobatics so this last flight was completed in a Pitts Special which is a biplane.  The plane has more metal in the fuselage but the wings are largely wood and the wings are covered in fabric.  Each of the pilots flying us around have been performing in airshows for the last 7 years or so, thankfully we were not expected to be able to handle their airshow routines!

 This is the view from the passenger (front) seat on the ground

Instead of having a nosegear (or tricycle gear) this plane has a tail wheel so the front is pitched up while on the ground and you have horrible visibility straight ahead.  On takeoff you actually pitch forward during the takeoff roll to get the tail wheel off the ground and see where you're going before pulling back on the stick to takeoff.

That red label is on the gas tank, right in front of my knees 

 Much shorter wingspan than the Cirrus (almost half)

The next two pictures are of the guy who flew after me because I didn't realize that I should have had taken pictures of this step...

The aerobatic flight starts with some acrobatics to get in the cockpit.

That backpack looking thing is a parachute since unlike the Cirrus this plane doesn't have a parachute built into the plane.  Even without that extra bit of mass it involved a lot of twisting and shifting to get into the plane without breaking anything (on the plane or your body).

Not a lot of extra room once you get in there

The Air Force rules do not allow us to take pictures once we're flying so I don't have any cool shots while we were inverted, so the most interesting part of this flight will just be a bunch of words on the blog.  Shortly after takeoff he gave me the stick and we climbed up to about 5000 feet and headed south to the practice area.  After getting there he had me do a few turns to get used to the way this plane handles compared to the Cirrus (much more responsive ailerons and you actually need to use the rudder to maintain coordinated flight).  We then did some progressively tighter turns for "G-awareness".  This exposed me to 2g, 3g and 4g turns so I would know what to expect during the rest of the flight.  Modern fighters can pull up to and even over 9g so this is still pretty mild compared to what they can do, but plenty for me.

He demonstrated a barrel roll and then an aileron roll.  I tried the aileron rolls myself, one to the left where I stopped rolling a little too early and then one to the left where we made it all the way around with out stopping halfway.  After that we did a Loop, Half Cuban Eight, Immelmann and a Split-S.  He would have let me try any of these but I wasn't feeling up to it and while we were supposed to do a spin I had to cry uncle as my inner ear took out the effects of its hyperstimulation on my stomach.

 Back on the ground, not too much worse for the wear

Over the last two weeks I had a total of 9 hours in the air and the number of take-offs was equal to the number of landings.  Before this flight we also did a low level flight to Indianapolis (to learn about navigation from ground based landmarks and radar avoidance).  After having dinner near an airport in Indiana we flew back to Dayton at night (to learn about night flying, instrument flying, spatial disorientation and communication with air traffic control).  All of our previous flights were done under visual flight rules (VFR) and didn't require any clearances from a tower or other controller.  While the aerobatic flight was pretty cool, I think I enjoyed the low-level and night flying the most because it was our last flight in the Cirrus and we got to do a lot of the flying, take offs and landings as the instructors had gotten more comfortable with what we could handle.  From a professional perspective I now have a much better understanding of what pilots need to be able to do and how illness would impact their ability to perform.  From a personal perspective this experience has deepened my interest in becoming a private pilot, but I don't think I'll be going out of my way to try and get a ride on an F-15 or F-16 (four-G was enough for me).  That ends the fun part of the AMP course as the next two weeks will be non-stop Death by PowerPoint learning about the rules, regulations and standards flight surgeons are responsible to enforce.


Jessica said...

That was fascinating! Thanks for sharing, Phil. I hope you do become a pilot so you can come visit us wherever either we are at in the future. :)

Mom E said...

Yes, thanks for sharing all this. it's so fascinating & I'm glad your desire to fly has finally become a reality. I agree with Jessica & hope you become a pilot too.
I had to LOL at the "death by Power Point" comment. You are so funny! Love, Mom