In flight refueling is pretty much a survival skill for a fighter pilot, especially if he’s in the US Navy.
(lots of pics, dial-up readers are forewarned)
All fighter designs are compromises – make a fighter big enough to carry a lot of gas, and you generally pay a performance tax. Building more fuel capacity makes the jet larger, requiring larger, more powerful engines to drive it at high subsonic and supersonic speeds. These engines in turn will generally use fuel at a faster rate, meaning diminished returns on the investment. A larger fighter is also a disadvantage on the carrier, where the real estate cost per square foot is probably the highest in the world.
But having a smaller fuel capacity greatly impacts flight operations, since “short-legged” fighters don’t have the endurance required to support maneuvering the ship during cyclic operations – one of the great advantages that aircraft carriers have over airfields is that you can move them around, hide them and such.
The FA-18, which some of you may know is where I passed most of my time spending your tax dollars, is considered at the lower end of the fuel bearing margin for a naval fighter.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A small plane carrying three Canadians disappeared while flying over an Antarctic mountain range, and bad weather Thursday was hampering a search.
The flight was going from a station near the South Pole to an Italian research base in Terra Nova Bay. Its emergency locator started transmitting about 10 p.m. Wednesday in a mountainous area about 280 miles north of the pole.
After posting last night I stayed up late watching the surviving in the arctic tundra episode of Survivorman on Netflix looking for tips that might help if I’m forced down in Greenland or northern Canada on my upcoming Cirrus trip. Afterwords, I went downstairs to my man cave and started sorting out the winter survival equipment I’ll be taking with me. Whenever I pack my survival gear for a trip I think about what I would like to have with me if I was forced down in whatever environment I’ll be flying over, sometimes it’s multiple environments. On one trip last year I had to be prepared to survive in the jungle, desert, mountains, north Atlantic, featureless ice cap, arctic tundra and northern forest. Try fitting that survival kit in a single engine aircraft along with survival suits and a raft.
Then I woke up this morning and read about the plane down in the Antarctic and a chill went up my spine. Exactly what I’m preparing for has happened and it was an extremely rugged and dependable Twin Otter that crashed. I know the Twin Otter well because I fly one at my skydiving school in Minneapolis and let me tell you it’s a far more capable aircraft than the Cirrus. It sounds like 100+ mph winds and poor weather might be a factor in the crash and are hindering rescue efforts. I pray for their safe return and hope I’m not next.
Got an email today asking if I was available to ferry a SR-22 Cirrus aircraft from Munich, Germany to Santa Monica, California. I desperately checked my schedule hoping to find some excuse to turn the trip down, but aside from the fact that I’ll miss a few of number one son’s hockey games, I’m unfortunately free . Why try and get out of this trip you ask? Because it’s a non-tanked trip meaning there won’t be any extra fuel tanks installed in the the plane and that means the only way to get from Europe to North America is via Iceland/Greenland or Russia. Either way, it’s gonna be COLD. Flying that far north in the winter is extremely dangerous. Any crash that puts you on the ground any distance from civilization is a potential death sentence. I don’t even want to go into the fact that there’s a big cold ocean I’ll have to cross as well. I’ll find out more about the trip in the coming days, but for now it’s time to start working on my arctic survival kit.
Doing crazy buzzjobs close to your friends is one thing. Letting them video the dangerous maneuver is another. Letting them upload the video onto the interweb where Dad the powers that be can see it leading to the expected “What in the hell were you thinking?” call is yet another.
Whenever I fly I’m always struck by the beauty of the sky and landscape I’m flying over, unless I’m flying over North Dakota. Even a cloudless day over a empty ocean has a certain elegance to it that holds your gaze longer than one would expect. But no matter how striking or beautiful the sky it almost never translates well into the camera. The photo above was taken in between Venezuela and Grenada last Christmas and even though the picture is nice it pales in comparison to what it looked like in person. I took a dozen photographs of these clouds and got only a few good ones.