Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sim Time

Okay, that's not the view from a Rhino as you approach "the boat", but it gives you a pretty good idea what I was seeing in the simulator today. Well, kind of...

I was always a bit high. To my credit I didn't do a ramp strike.

So I had that going for me.

Got to the sim building on time (which can be a minor miracle when you have to get a three year old ready at the same time!) I settled into "the jet" right around 1045 local. After adjusting the rudder pedals and the seat, we were ready to go. Son-in-law Big Time was my instructor and he's a good one. Tells you what to do and why you do it a particular way.
After an unfortunate, "What the Hell was that?" incident, (Big Time hit a button, all I saw was the "red screen o' Death" then we reset) we were ready for take-off. Out of NAS Miramar of all places!
F9F-6P of VC-61 over NAS Miramar
(Back in the day)
When Big Time said we were ready to go, the throttles went forward, past the detent and into 'burner. As he put it, "Guess you know about that part..." As he started to speak again I had already eased in a bit of right rudder to correct a rather disturbing "Hey look, I'm heading off the left side of the runway" problem.

In moments we were "airborne", simulated of course.

This sim was rather placid, no movement to give you a feel for flying, but rather nice displays and sound. We seemed to be flying around the time of nautical twilight. Either that or someone needed to crank up the brightness and contrast. Heh.

I was at 20K in no time flat so we played around for a while. Did a loop, which was alright until I did the old "look straight up and back to acquire the horizon" thing only to note that the all-around displays weren't quite 360-degrees. Directly overhead, nothing. So I looked right, reacquired the horizon and pulled out comfortably with beaucoup altitude to spare. I hadn't tied the low altitude record yet!

Next I wanted to build up some smash. I suppose I could have put the nose down to gain airspeed but where's the fun in that? Past the detent and into 'burner I went (after all we're in the sim, who cares about fuel conservation?)

When I got her going pretty good, I pulled back to military power, rolled left and pulled the stick back hard into a pretty sweet high-G turn. Big Time showed me the read-out, I think I got it up to 5-Gs. But as you couldn't really feel it, it wasn't that much fun. So I figured I would do some more maneuvering to see if I could at least not look like an idiot while "flying".

Did a rather nice Immelmann (again, the lack of a full 360 display was a bit disconcerting), then from there went into a Split-S. (Yes, I did check the altitude first!) While enjoying the sight of the displays reacting to my maneuvering I kind of lost my situational awareness. Next thing I know "Bitching Big Time" is muttering in my ear, "Pull up, pull up". Oh yes, boys and girls, the Old AF Sarge was rapidly approaching tying the low altitude record but through judicious back pressure on the stick (as in trying to touch my spine with the joystick) I managed to level off at a rather uncomfortable 100 feet.

By the way, the simulator displays are rather 3-D. 50 feet lower and I do believe I would've plowed into a ridge. At least it looked like a ridge as it passed rather rapidly under the jet.

So, let's find the boat and try and land this beast.

After some fooling around (and a reset to give me a bit more fuel, remember I went into 'burner more than was probably prudent early in the flight) there was this disturbance on the ocean's surface.

"That's the wake?"

"Yup, of course we're pretty far out yet. It'll get bigger."

Well, technically yes, it does get bigger. But OH MY GOD I HAVE TO LAND WHERE?

Yes, big ocean, small boat. Relatively speaking.

First approach wasn't too bad. Of course, the old timers would no doubt argue that the jet practically lands itself. You can set Automatic Throttle Control (ATC) which will manage your airspeed pretty nicely. Unless you jerk the controls around a bit much. Then the onboard computers decide, "Well, the meatware seems to want to do things his way, alright, YOUR JET!"

Yup, ATC will shut off if your control inputs are, shall we say, a bit rough. Ditto the autopilot. Kind of sucks when you're slamming the jet around trying to stay on path and on glideslope. Gently does it cowboy, gently! 
Rhino Heads Up Display (HUD)
So I'm coming in pretty good, just a tad high. Big Time says "chop the power" (or words to that effect), I pull the throttles all the way back. I'm on the deck.

Um, shouldn't I be stopping now? Laughing maniacally, I push the throttles into 'burner and start yelping "bolter, bolter, bolter". Time to try again.

"So Big Time, what happened there?"

"Well, you came down a little hard, so I'm guessing you managed to bounce your 'hook over all four of the wires."

"Well. That sucks."

"Hey, it happens."

"To you?"

"Of course not."

So we went around again. For two more touch and goes. And one low pass over the boat when I realized I had pulled back on the stick instead of pushing forward like my nice IP told me to.

"What was that?"

"Uh, I wanted to wave at the Admiral?"


So our sim time was up. I never did trap, but I didn't damage the carrier in any way. No sailors were harmed.

I also was amazed at just how much seawater those General Electric F414 engines can suck down and still function.

(While I never hit the boat, we did go swimming a couple of times.)

As we departed the sim, the operator guy who controls everything said, "You need a little work on your landings." Yes, we all had a good laugh at that. Nice of him to say "a little", rather than, "Hey, you suck at this!"

All in all, three things today -

1) It's not easy landing on an aircraft carrier,

2) Big Time is a superb instructor,

3) Aircraft carriers only look big when you're not trying to land on them.

Today was:


Oh. Yeah!!!


  1. Good thing you get to start with a sim...what a blast!

    Amazing how easy they make it seem.

    1. Easy being a relative term. The sim won't kill you. At least not that I know of!

  2. What a great description - and from Miramar, yet - one of my favorite places. So glad it was awesome!

    1. Thanks Robin.

      It was a lot of fun. (Kind of the understatement of the year!)

  3. Heh, yeah, not quite as easy as it looks is it? Glad you got a chance to get in the sim, not many folks get to do that!

    1. Easy? No, not at all. I've always been impressed by Nasal Radiators. Even more so, now that I've had a taste.

  4. Dang enter key, I was going to say too bad he didn't have the motion on! THAT is a blast in the 18 trainer!!!

  5. Thanks for the ride - Really enjoyed it!

  6. Ahem. Jealous, Part Deux.

    Great description, Chris. You earned yer blog-money today!

  7. Wow, I remember when Miramar and the 'A' range were the only things out north of SDIEGO ...and the highway was US395 instead of I-15.

    Oh, and I have it on good authority from some who've done it... you don't land on a carrier.
    You do a controlled crash.
    Someone explained the analogy of learning how as similar to learning how to catch flies in your bare hand... you get a lot of misses at firs and, with experience, you catch one every time.

    1. Controlled crash sounds about right.

      I like the catching flies analogy, not bad.


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