Monday, March 16, 2015

Stimulation, Sensation and Simulation

After a stimulating post on Saturday discussing in eloquent detail the value of pi to 26 decimal places, I found myself somewhat at a loss for an encore idea.  Knowing that Sarge pays generously by the word (suffice it to say there are lots of zeros involved anyway) , streaming video is not going to be sufficient.  Mrs Juvat needs new shoes.  

What to do, what to do?

I'm not feeling enthused enough to discuss current events concerning our current crop of political buffoons about e-mail or any other electronic errata.  Similarly, I don’t watch enough TV to wax eloquent on the latest development of couples vs blind dates in some kind of race (I believe the objective is first team to the gutter wins).  Nor do I have any particular interest in well paid thugs performing athletic actions with various spheroid shaped objects.  In any case we seem to be currently in a drought regarding those activities, so no joy there.
I am in the midst of reading several books, many on recommendation from electronic friends, perhaps something along those lines.  I’ve started the Bandy Papers series on recommendation by the scribe at “Everybody has to be Somewhere”.  I’m also reading the BOFH series of short stories on the recommendation in a comment by Fringe.  You might need to be an IT guy to fully appreciate the humor there.  Finally I’m re-reading the Mark Berent “Rolling Thunder” series, just because.  One of the benefits of Kindle, if one book doesn't fit your mood at any one time, click home and pick another.  But, this site isn’t book of the month club, so a book report won’t work.

I just invested a hard-earned sawbuck on a PC Game, Lock On,Modern Air Combat, maybe I could do a post on my prowess in the game.  Nah, it keeps crashing.  Got to keep tweaking those settings before I can say anything about that. 

What to do, what to do?

I know!  I was a 2LT once, they always do something harrowing, stupid and, upon survival, humorous. So, in that regard anyhow, I was an excellent 2LT.  How about something from those mental archives?...

Wait for it….

So, There I was…*

I’ve managed to survive pinking an instrument check, still get my wings and keep my F-4 assignment while fueling conspiracy theorists throughout Southwest Texas about UFOs and USAF coverups.  I’ve also managed to survive Lead-In Fighter Training with a gradebook that included some scintillating write-ups.
“As #4 in a rejoin after takeoff, Lt Juvat managed to show the flight lead his inverted burner cans as he overshot his rejoin in front of the formation.”  Geez, Captain, if you didn’t want me to go get them, you shouldn’t have said “Go Get ‘em, Tiger. Show me what you can do!”

But, I digress.

I’m now in F-4 RTU, at lovely Luke AFB just west of Phoenix AZ.  I’ve driven to work at 0300 whilst listening to the radio and heard the announcer say “Morning folks, it’s 3AM and a balmy 103 outside.”  But, you know, “dry heat”….

We’d step to the jet at 0600 for a 0700 takeoff, with two frozen baby bottles of water.  Do our walk around, and by the time we were done, the water bottles would be thawed.  The first one went down nice and cold.  Fire up the jet and taxi out, we’d drink the second one at the hold short line.  It was coolish.  Fortunately, the bread truck had coolers of water for the ride back to the squadron.

The Black and White Stripes were to make the jets easier to see.  Safety don'cha know!

Luke, at the time, was a great place to fly.  The airspace to the south was pretty much all altitudes, all speeds.  Ranges were large and close enough to Luke that fuel generally wasn’t a problem.  Aircraft at the base reflected the shift in USAF fighter capabilities that was looming on the very close horizon.  

The metadata for this picture says it was taken while I was actually at Luke.

There were 1963 model F-4Cs, F-104s from the German Air Force and the F-15 had arrived. (The F-5 was also assigned to the Wing although it flew out of Williams across town.)

Other than a slight misunderstanding on my first day in the squadron (who knew that grey haired guy walking in the front door was the Squadron CO and expected the squadron to be called to when he entered?), training has been uneventful.


There was that time at the range, I pull off a bomb pass and the Master Caution light comes on.  A glance at the warning panel tells me I’ve got Bleed Air Duct Failure.  Hmmm, 1000 degree Celsius air directly from the engine leaking into the wings directly in front of the internal wing fuel tanks.  Nothing bad could happen there.  I roll out, call knock it off and take care of the problem.  I’ve got an IP in the back seat who asks me what’s going on.  I report the symptoms and tell him my plan.  

On refreshing my memories by checking the Dash-One, I find this.

I hope there's no fire!

Nope, no fire!
Source: Dash-1 
page 3-11 PDF page 129

Normally, the Dash 1 says “Do this, that and the other". Then, "Land as soon as conditions permit.”  As you can see, for this particular emergency, the procedures are basically, "Good Luck, Buddy, Get it on the ground as soon as possible."  Gila Bend Aux airfield is about 10 miles away.  I’m headed there. 

My IP is very nervous.  He doesn’t disagree with my actions, but he’s very talkative and questioning.  I ask him if he wants the jet, since he is the pilot in command.  He says no.  We’ll be flying a steep approach to maintain ejection altitude as long as possible, so he won’t be able to see the runway.  I fly the approach, land, taxi clear and shut down in the arming area.  No big deal.  Get helicoptered back to Luke, which was, naïve as I was, kinda cool.  

I get back in the squadron and get called in to the Ops Officers office.  He wants to know what happened.  I tell him, he says good job and asks if I had any questions.  I asked him why my IP had been so nervous.  Well, seems that in 1968 while over Hanoi, he’d been in an F-4 that had Bleed Air Duct Failure after a near miss by an SA-2.  He’d ejected and spent the next few years under the kind care of the North Vietnamese.  I guess I can cut him some slack.

I’ve graduated and am in casual status for a bit waiting for survival school.  The Ops Officer says he’s got a good deal for me.  “Ahh, Crap!”  I ask what it is; he says the Air Force is testing a new simulator.  
Picture of me in the new simulator.  Rare picture of Sarge also as the Sim Operator.
Source: simulator

I’d get 9 rides in the sim over the course of the next 3 days.  He gives me a building number and tells me show time is 0700 tomorrow.

The program was called Simulator for Air to Air Combat, which somebody had, no doubt, made Colonel by coming up with the acronym SAAC. 
Couldn't find a picture of the actual sim, but picture this in an Arizona Hippie's house in Sedona and you'd be close.

 It was two F-4 simulators encapsulated in a geodesic dome of CRTs that were interfaced together, so you could theoretically fight each other.  Because it was a simulation, you could have “real” simulated weapons which would fire and if it hit the other aircraft would trigger damage, limit maneuverability and even shut down the sim in the event of a kill shot. 

It also had the capability for one of the aircraft to be configured as a Mig-21.  Still an F-4 cockpit, but having the flight characteristics of the Mig.
The whole program was actually quite fun although it did have limitations. 

The resolution of the CRTs was horrible.  At most ranges, the bogey was only one or two pixels, so trying to figure out aspect angle or nose position was all but impossible.   So, there was a lot of close in slow speed fighting going on. 

They did a decent job of simulating Gs, you wore your G-suit which was hooked up and would pressurize according to the simulator’s assessment of the G-Load.  Also, the flight controls would get heavy or lighter as the flight parameters would indicate. 

The one drawback was there was no actual motion, and this would cause the study to take an interesting fork in the road and have an surreal impact on me..

The fighting was fun, and I did learn quite a bit.  Probably the most vivid revelation I had was in a fight against the Mig.  It was a butterfly set up where we would turn into each other and start the fight.  I managed to get a lock and fired an Aim-7 at him, but it had failed to guide.  Too little time between lock and fire for the radar to settle and pass targeting information, IIRC. Best to ask Sarge.  In any case, my opponent had seen the missile come off the jet and pulled up to begin his defense.  Misjudging the closure rate, he flies right into me!  

Both canopies went dark and we were exited from the dome as morts.  HMMMM.  This fighter thing could be serious business.

So, I’ve gotten through my 9 sims and am driving home that evening.  I’m on Glendale Avenue dead stopped at a light.  I’m looking at the light waiting for it to turn green, when I feel my car begin a barrel roll to the right around the light.  I look around and everything on earth appears to be confirming what I’m feeling.  I think I’m going nuts.

We have a short out-briefing the next morning with the Simulator Study people and they ask if anyone had experienced any unusual sensations after the sims.  Hesitant to say anything, I’m just sitting there when one of the old heads pipes up and says, “My Corvette did a sweet barrel roll on the way home last night.”  Pretty soon, most of the guys had fessed up. 

While doing a little research to find pictures of the sim (couldn’t find any). I came across this link which talked about the symptom that they came to call simulator sickness. The study evolved into looking for ways to avoid that problem in future simulators.  Hope I don’t encounter that again with my new game.


  1. Simply put, brilliant.

    (I have a copy of Lock On, somewhere. Perhaps I should dig that out. Based on the mustaches in that photo, must have been taken in March.)

  2. “My Corvette did a sweet barrel roll on the way home last night.”

    I had a '64 VW do that once.
    Took four of us to get it back on its wheels and the doors didn't work any more.

    1. Sounds like you had a VW that did 1/2 of a sweet barrel roll. Mine, fortunately, was a full 360.

    2. No... mine did the 360.
      It just hesitated on the pavement at 180 and bounced once.

  3. We have a crew simulator for gunner training in the Blackhawk, and there's still an issue with simulator sickness. Interestingly enough sitting sideways in the aircraft seems to take some getting used to - while we don't pull much in the way of g's, it's enough to be disorienting, Pilots generally don't like the crew seats in back for that reason. We were at the Gila Bend aux field just last week. Did you have to make an arrested landing? The field seems a little short for an F-4.

    1. I don't recall taking a barrier on that one, although I might have. My recollection (always dangerous and susceptible to error) of my first one was later at Kunsan. Runway Length is 8500' which would have been plenty.

      "....crew simulator for gunner training in the Blackhawk..." So that was a picture of you then? ;-)

    2. "....crew simulator for gunner training in the Blackhawk..." So that was a picture of you then? ;-)

      Could be... the Army doesn't get the spiffy new trainers....

  4. NAMI or NAOMI, or whatever they're calling the Naval Aviation Aeromedical Physiological Institute down in P'Cola was a grand ol' time. The "Spin & Puke" was as fun as a carnival ride at the county fair. It made you feel like you were leaning this way or that, and I remember even pushing myself off the side wall of the pod because I felt like it was rolling to about 45-60 degrees to the side. Found out later that it was all in our heads- it was only the lights we observed that gave us the impression of leaning and rolling. We never moved more than a few inches in either direction. Don't know if I had any flashbacks while driving though. Spin & Puke picture here:

    1. Looks like the Navy's saving money by buying old Tilt-a-Whirls from carnivals. I'll just bet that was fun! I forget what the chair was named (but the fact that it WAS named is significant) that was used for vertigo training in UPT was always a hoot. Nobody got too close to that one while it was occupied for fear of flying breakfasts.

  5. Was the SAAC messing with your inner ear? I am thinking of the same sensation when on a ship extended periods and going to land (well, any ship weighing less than 80,000 tons).

    "It's a dry heat" - yeah I have heard that for the 50 years I have lived in the Central Valley of CA - to which a wag replied "So is an oven".

    On the Bleed Air Duct Failure - always like the instruction manuals - so bureaucratic - a favorite phrase I learned years ago "The results can be unpredictable"

    1. Bill,
      I'm not a doctor nor have I played one on TV, but as I understood it, it was actually the eyes conflicting with what the inner ear was sensing. Whereas, in the vertigo chair, the fluid in the ear was moving and the eyes were saying the body wasn't, in the sim, the eyes were saying you were moving in all axis when the inner ear fluid was saying you weren't. Why that caused my car to appear to roll around the traffic light, I couldn't explain, but it was a little spooky.

      1970s --->"The results can be unpredictable" 2010s --->YMMV

  6. Lots of thoughts, bringing back memories… "failed to guide", "land as soon as conditions permit" (I always wondered when the conditions would permit, that's why we ignored the advice and landed anyway). The picture of the simulator brought on that unstable queasiness that always accompanied two or three hours in those things (actually, it was worse at Western/Delta).
    I did the math and figured out the calendar and determined that as his IP I gave Court Bannister a pink slip on his first air-to-air refueling hop at George in 1966. Funny, it didn't make the series. It still is strange to me that he and I must have crossed paths when he was in the RTU near GAFB.
    Those books are a must read by anyone interested in what happened in SEA. I carry them all with me in my iPad.

    1. The failed to guide was one of the more valid training points of the program. I only got to fire 1 air to air missile in my entire flying career as part of WSEP. Because it was WSEP, the missile and the aircraft had been fine tuned so the chance of something going wrong were slight. Finally, since it was against a drone that wasn't maneuvering all that hard and certainly wasn't shooting back, I took my time with the shot. (On reviewing tape during debrief, I took A LOT of time taking the shot.) So everything worked well.
      I certainly, at the cognitive level, knew about settling time and such, but there's a fundamental difference between knowing it on the ground and KNOWING it when you're trying to kill something and avoid being killed. There was that moment after pickling the missile in the sim that I was expecting him to explode and I would go home doing victory rolls when I should have been moving my jet. That took a bit of reflection to come to understand.
      So there was some valid training accomplished.

  7. Interesting on the SAAC and sim sickness. The Navy's F-18 sims in the 80's did have 6DOF,and more than a few people puked in them They also had the g-suit and shakers built in. All that to say the inner ear STILL wins... (thankfully I didn't puke till I got OUT of the Sim)

    1. Every sim I was ever in, always seemed to have a certain odeur about it. A healthy mix of sweat with a touch of fear and a whiff of puke I believe.

  8. One of the fun things about my job was learning and later teaching aviation physiology. Consider that our eyes "see" the world upside down and backwards to start with, and that our brain has to learn to suspend disbelief to keep us upright and navigating with our feet on the ground.

    Fun read Juvat, thanks!

    1. Thanks. Since you taught that stuff, what was that spinning chair's name? For the life of me, I can't remember.

    2. Barany chair. Pronounced with a hungarian lisp. AKA Weeble chair.

    3. Dang! I wasn't even close! But, yep, now that you said that, I think I puked just a little in my mouth. That chair, and survival training were two of my least favorite things between commissioning and operational status.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Gooned my first try. For me it was the helo dunker. I had the opportunity to egress in the water for real before the first of my four dunker sessions, and I always thought YGTBSM, this job isn't dangerous enough? I know the arguments and they're valid, just hated the damn thing. One thing to go out in a blaze of operational glory, quite another to drown like a rat in a pool. "Dear Mrs. Evertson: Sorry 'bout that."


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