It’s Not Funny Anymore


It’s April 19 for crying out loud, will someone tell me why I’m waking up to more snow instead of warm sunny skies?  This winter just won’t let go and as of now we are a full month late in opening my skydiving school.  I don’t know if I can take it any more, especially since while I’m freezing my butt off two of my fellow CB Aviation pilots are flying a BE-1900 from South Africa to Vancouver.   I hate them.

Your Weekly Lex, For Strength

Repost: T.I.A.D. – Near mid-air

By lex, on July 26th, 2006

There are few words so immediately blood-chilling in their effect upon tactical aviators as these: “mid-air.” It is an abbreviation for “mid-air collision,” and conjures up images of once sleek, purposeful and lethal high performance aircraft reduced in a moment to odd pieces of flaming trash, fluttering to earth – instant chaos from order.

Mention news of a mid-air and prepare yourself for the customary, almost involuntary response: “Did anyone get out?”

There are many ways to die in fighters. The most common is controlled flight into terrain, or CFIT. It’s a long term that essentially boils down to “dummy flew too low.” While we can and do mourn people who die this way, we also have a tendency to shrug a bit, mentally. After all, you can only tie the low altitude record, you can’t beat it. Should have known better.

Mid-airs can occur between flight members, as someone’s attention drifts or gets over-channelized; the wingman has primary collision avoidance responsibility, but a poor flight lead can certainly contribute by behaving unpredictably in a moment when a flight is task-saturated.

They can occur in a slow-speed fight, when the aircraft are performing at their aerodynamic limits and nothing is left to draw upon when one or both combatants miscalculate the vector – these can have a slow motion, nightmarish character of inescapable and imminent doom that hasn’t quite happened yet. One pilot may survive such a collision, much more rarely both will. The aircraft themselves, of course, are almost always destroyed.

But the third and most lethal form of mid-air collision is the head-on. No one ever survives a head-on collision. Closure rates are so very high that the moment is over before conscious thought can form, and the forces are catastrophic. And I think that’s what so frightening about the head-on mid-air: pilots are essentially control freaks, accustomed to being in charge of their destinies. But in the moment you realize that you are approaching a head-on collision, a moment that transitions seamlessly between “in control, looking good” to a red wave of panic, there is often only one chance to escape, one last-ditch move and whether or not you live through the next instant will depend entirely upon what the other guy does: If his reaction mirrors yours, it will mean instant, unknowing death.

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Twenty three years ago I lost five of my very best friends in a mid-air collision.  It was a beautiful sunny winters day and they climbed into my friends Cessna 182 to make a skydive.  The plane they were in was the one that I normally flew but I’d been on a skiing trip that weekend and had just pulled up to the dropzone as they were taking off with the plane being flown by one of my best friends.  They didn’t get far.  Climbing out at five hundred feet their plane was struck by an instructor and his student flying a Piper Cherokee on a training flight.  Even though everyone on the jump plane was wearing parachutes no one made it out.  I’ve replayed what it must have looked like being at the controls of the jump plane in my head a thousand times.  If it had been me at the controls would the outcome have been different?  Or would I have been just as distracted or complacent and not seen the black shape in the windscreen getting larger and larger until it was too late?  I’ll never know.

No Kill Like A Guns Kill

Now, this is no ****! Towards the end of the AIM/ACE — EVAL, things had heated up between the Eagle and Turkey pilots. At the Nellis O’club many innuendoes and challenges had been thrown out as a result of the high profile dog fights between the Tomcat/Eagle Blue Force and the F-5Es. The Blue Force F-15 drivers were threatened with a court martial, flying rubber dog **** outta Hong Kong and having their birthday taken away if they even thought about locking horns with ACEVAL Tomcats. When the test sorties were finally over, a couple of F-15 instructors in the 415th training squadron took the bait. “Turk” Pentecost and I were a section. Turk was not nearly as cocky, arrogant and boisterous as D-Hose, but just as aggressive, smart, devious and just as good a stick. We briefed a very wide hook, an altitude split of 10k ft. and a radar sort @ 25nm by Bill “Hill Billy” Hill and “Fearless” Frank Schumacher. All pre-merge heat and radar missiles didn’t count. It was GUNS only at the merge. The wide hook enabled Turk and D-Hose to split the fight into (2)1v1’s, with one Turkey high, one low and lots of lateral separation. As Hill Billy and D-hose closed for a 250ft, guns kill on their Eagle, the comm went like this: D-hose: “Where are you Turk?” Fearless: “Right above you Hoser” D-hose: “We got two cons! Who’s out front?” Turk (mildly offended): “Who do ya think?” Both Eagles were gunned, “knock it off” was called, and the Tomcats RTB’d with a 500 knot, 6.5g, half second break at Nellis…cuz that was our salute and tribute to our fine VX-4 maintenance personnel.



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HT/Jeff H

Ferry Flight Pic Of The Day


Fall 2011, base to final for the very short runway at St. Barts.  Under the camera mounted on the glare shield you can just barley make out the island that is used as a point on the approach where you drop landing gear, flaps and cut power.  If you’re late in doing any of these things you’ll be high and will have a devil of a time getting back in the groove in time to salvage the approach.  If you push the bad situation you will either be fast or high causing you to go around or go swimming.  Bonus points for anyone who can actually see the runway in the picture above, trust me it’s there but the first time you see it from this point you can’t believe how small it really is.

From Near Death To Success

Did a little flight instruction with my pseudo student to day and had a small scare followed by some definite improvement.  We started out by taking the mighty Cessna 150 up to 2500 feet for a little slow flight practice followed by power on stalls and then the ever popular accelerated stall.  For those of you non-pilots types an accelerated stall is where the pilot puts the plane in a steep bank and then hauls back on the yoke to increase the angle of attack to a point where the wing stalls, basically.  In practice it’s a lot of fun if your skilled at the maneuver, if you’re a new student pilot it can be downright terrifying.

We did three or four of them before I decided that he’d had enough fun for one day so it was back to the airport for landing practice.  On the first attempt I had to grab the yoke at the last second to keep us from crashing into the runway at an angle that would’ve rendered the aircraft un-flyable, always considered bad form, the second wasn’t much better with my student pushing the wrong rudder peddle as he was about to land pointing us at the grass on the side of the runway instead of the long paved part, causing me to save the day yet once again.  But the next two landings were positively lovely.  Ok he ran out of airspeed a little high on the last one and fell out of the sky like a turd from a tall Moose but the airplane was still usable when we stopped bouncing so I gave him that one.  All in all a good day’s flying.