Growing up, I was a strange child. For example, I liked Math and Science. My folks gave me a chemistry set when I was about 10 with real chemicals. The horrors! Gosh, I’m sure I could have made some concoction and wiped out life throughout the universe.
For my 13th birthday,They gave me a Daisy Model 94 BB gun. My San Francisco born and bred Mother put up a heckuva fight, but ultimately my Dad won. Mom, of course, used the “it’s all fun til someone loses an eye” routine. Dad just took me outside and gave me the four rules speech. Those made more sense to me.
Our house on Webb AFB were part of the original base housing, built during WWII, there were three buildings and 5 dwellings, 4 duplexes and the Wing King’s house. Old, and out of the way, but they were (and still are) right next to an undeveloped part of the base. Cedar and Mesquite trees, hills and washes, the perfect place for a kid with a BB gun to have fun. Then, my best friend Mike got a gas powered pellet rifle. No red ant hill nor abandoned beer bottle was safe. We had a blast.
|Home Sweet Home. Ours was to the left of the street and closest to the bottom.|
Source Google Maps
But, as Sarge keeps telling me, I digress. Where was I? Oh, right, I was weird. I got Math. Algebra was easy and I really loved Geometry which stood me in good stead later when I began flying fighters.
Beyond Math, I loved to read (still do with 225 books on my Kindle at last count). This was a good thing. Mom’s rule was only 1 hour of TV a day and then only during Summer. During School, it was 1 hour a week, and even then that had to be diplomatically decided on by the body politic, AKA my siblings, as we all had to watch the same 1 hour show. Other than that, it was homework, outside play and or reading. I was a big fan of WWII history books specifically air war related and even more specifically fighter pilot related. As I said, I was weird.
At the time, my method of getting around the base was feet or bike. My bike was a metallic blue stingray with a banana seat and ape hanger handle bars. It was also from time to time a P-51, Spitfire, Corsair, P-38 and, if I wanted to get exotic, a Mosquito.
Mike and I used to have some epic dogfights weaving in and out trying to get behind one another. (Wonder if that had anything to do with my tendency early in my flying career to think two dimensionally?)
Those battles also taught me that rarely does one “win” in a mid-air.
Got to High School and like everyone else in my class took Physics as a Senior. I’m serious when I say, I think the teacher was in his 80s. He frequently fell asleep in class. All that having been said, I got Physics. I mean I GOT Physics! It might have had something to do with a practical example of Newton’s Laws I had as a child prodigy when I was flying an F-4 at age 12.
But first, Class we’re going to have a review of Newton’s Laws of Motion.
Newton’s First Law.
“An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
Celebrex commercial notwithstanding, this law pretty much is the one immutable law of flying. In Fighter Pilotese, it says, “You ain’t gonna fly until you light the engines. You’re going to go in a straight line until you change the pressure level around a portion of your aircraft. And you’ll only stay flying as long as your engines stay running and you avoid hitting anything.”
Newton’s Second Law.
Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object).
Mongo say “Small fighter, Big Engine. Trees go by fast.”
Newton’s Third Law.
For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action.
Newton must have been married.
Now, Newton was a smart man. According to legend, he got all that from an apple.
I, on the other hand, needed to perform some experimentation.
So, There I was…..* 12 years old, and bored to tears. It’s spring break and my best friend Mike and I are trying to figure out what to do. We’ve shot our way through our allowance in BBs and Pellets and the Red Ants are breathing a sigh of relief. We’ve conducted numerous Physics experiments with our Hot Wheels cars using some very intricate, albeit carefully laid out, test tracks in Mike’s living room. His was much bigger than ours. Mike’s dad was a Lt Col, mine was a Captain. I have successfully proven that my McLaren was the car to beat once again. Mike’s mom tells us to tear it down and pack it up, but it’s only 1200! Her party doesn’t start til 1900. Even us kids told time that way.
Anyhow, my Mom calls and says Dad’s home and Lunch is ready. So I go home for my Baloney Sandwich.
Dang! Life was good back then!
We’re all sitting down at lunch and Dad’s talking about his day so far. He’s been out in Mobile all morning, grading landings and making sure his student pilot assistant is checking every airplane to make sure their gear is down. Newton’s first law says that the landing roll will be unusually short if not.
Anyhow, an F-4 has come in on a cross country and during his landing roll, his drag chute separated from the aircraft. It being a gusty day, the drag chute was out in between two busy runways and just in front of the Mobile Control. Dad sent the student out to get the chute. It was in Dad's car, would I like it?
Now, this was during the period when having a parachute hanging from the ceiling as room decoration was the absolute height of Air Force Brat, Male, 1 each, coolness. Yeah Baby! (No, I did not say that to my Dad! “Yes, Sir, Thanks!)
Lunch is over, I’ve retrieved the chute and dragged it over to Mike’s house to show it off and enlist his help in hanging it in my (well, my brother and my) bedroom.
Mike is enthused as we open it up outside, then he gets a great idea. How about if we have a dog fight? Juvat, you can be the F-4 and we’ll tie the cable to the back of your banana seat. Then when we come in for the landing, you can deploy it and that’ll be really cool!
So it is written, so it shall be. We go round and round for a bit and then head back for landing. I’m headed into about 15-20K of wind and decide it’s time to deploy the drag chute. I reach behind me and grab the rolled up chute and throw it behind me. Nothing happens for a second.
A body in motion (mine) tends to stay in motion, even if his bicycle has come to a complete stop and in fact is being drug by a fully inflated chute capable of stopping a 20 ton fighter travelling at 160K.
Well, I stayed in motion until gravity overcame what aerodynamic lift my body provided and then friction between it and the asphalt brought me to a halt. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Webb AFB clinic putting my left arm in a cast.
In one short, but vivid, episode, I experienced all three of Newton’s laws in a very effective learning environment. But, by the time I was a Senior in High School, I GOT physics!