Fly like a fighter: Where'd my maps go?

February 1, 2012

Fly like a fighter

One of the most fun training missions in the F-15 was the one-vs.-one dogfight. The swirling and turning high-G maneuvering seemed partly a chess game and partly an extreme physical workout. During one particular engagement, I started in front of my wingman on the defensive. At the “fight’s on” call, I rolled into 110 degrees of bank and executed an 8-G break turn. This was enough, initially, to keep his nose off me. I then wanted to try a risky move and transitioned to a vertical loop. Unfortunately for me, he had closed to within gun range and it was apparent that he would soon have his nose back on me to take a shot.

I was now about 50 degrees nose high, wings level, and he was near my 6 o’clock position so I needed to rapidly get out of the way of the business end of his Gatling gun. I decided to try something else new for me—a negative-G guns jink. I slammed the stick full forward to the stop and the jet answered with a negative-3.2-G pushover. I felt the strain on my lap belt holding me in, and my feet came flying up such that my shins each smacked the bottom of the instrument panel. But even more spectacular was watching my map case explode as every map, chart, and approach plate came out and pinned itself to the top of the canopy. Once the “knock it off” call was made and I returned to 1-G flight, the charts fell all over the cockpit. Larry Brown

I could only reach about half of them. The others were either under my seat, way forward on the glareshield, or behind me on the “turtledeck.” I quickly checked that none were in the throttle quadrant or near the stick. The good news was that we were at bingo fuel, so it was time to come home. We also were at our home base, so I didn’t need any of the maps to get home. After landing I waited until the engines were completely stopped before I opened the canopy to avoid any foreign object damage problems.

I don’t expect that I will be doing any negative-G pushovers in my Cessna, but what have I learned from this fun story? The first is that I make sure my maps and charts are within arm’s reach in the cockpit and secured so that they can’t slide to where I can’t reach them (like under the rear seats). The second is that I have always studied my entire route of flight, including approaches or VFR arrival at the destination, before I even walk out to the airplane for the preflight. Finally, and even the airlines talk about this, is to make sure all carry-ons and baggage are secured “as they may shift during the course of the flight.”

By the way, the negative-G guns jink didn’t work. Watching the videotape afterward from my wingman, I saw that my airplane appeared to stop in space as it rotated nose down about the lateral axis, which just meant I soaked up more bullets than normal.

Larry Brown of Colorado Springs, Colo., is a retired Air Force F-15 pilot who is using the lessons he learned as a fighter pilot as a GA pilot in his Cessna P210. Brown, who has 2,600 hours total time during his 32 years of flying, also was an instructor pilot and flight examiner in the Air Force T-38 and instructor pilot in the T-52, the military’s version of GA’s Diamond DA40. See previous installments in the Fly like a fighter archive.