Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Scorching the skies

Having spent lots of hours adding information to the Pursglove one name study website, I have taken a bit of time out to get used to flying fast jets on my flight simulator.  I have a USAF F111 swing wing jet and a BAC Lightning F6, both of which are capable of faster than sound flight.
The F111 is an easy plane to take off and fly in level flight.  Like all fast jets, it will not fly very slow and retain control, so even with the wings extended, a speed of 250kts must be exceeded to remain airborne.  On landing, the aircraft needs to be lined up with the runway at about 20 miles out to cope with a controlled descent.  Wheels down at 5 miles out and air brakes at 1 mile out.  Wheel brakes when all wheels are on the ground.  This is a heavy aircraft and it needs a lot of space to turn in when it is airborne.  It flies like a big passenger jet on landing and take off, but faster.
The Lightning if frightening.  It has an inherent stability problem with the rudder, which will only give control above 250kts.  This means that on takeoff, the only way you can alter direction is by using the main wheel brakes differentially until you are at lift off speed.  Basically, you aim the aircraft at the other end of the runway and go at full throttle. Landing is the same.  If you do not have good runway alignment on final approach, you have to go around again.  This was apparent in 1975 when I was in the Lightning simulator at RAF Binbrook.  This aeroplane is unforgiving and has to be flown every inch of the way.  You start the engines and work hard for up to 45 minutes.  By this time you must have your wheels back on the ground or your refuel tube in an airborne tanker hose or your aeroplane will fall out of the sky.

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