Right so this is where it gets interesting I guess! By this point I have had Rock dance around me like a shark circling an injured seal, I have had Double D from VTA clip my wings more then once and Storm get so close to me I can count the vodka shots on his dash…. None of this compares to the challenge that I find myself facing going forwards.
“That’s enough of that, time to go on wing. Right or left?” This simple, short statement was about to change my entire perspective of formation flying. Ow you see when a man normally gets asked a simple left or right question the answer soon follows, in this instance I couldn’t get much out other then a squeak followed by a gulp. Now my mind is casting back to the first time I tried flying in formation and being so far behind rock you could park an ocean liner in between us. I was only just getting comfortable flying in slot and now there was a curveball coming at me faster then a hippo on rollerskates rolling downhill! But me being me I was up for a challenge so selected right wing. We spawned in L39’s and the adventure began…
The first thing that Rock and I discovered is that the L39 is not a powerful beast! Having flown the Su27 for 99% of our time in the air going to the L39 felt like we had been bad boys and demoted to the baby plane. Never the less Rock advised that the L39 was a nice stable aircraft to learn aerobatics in and made a good platform for trying wing for the first time.
Now this wouldn’t be a very interesting story if I could just turn round and say it was easy would it? Having trimmed the aircraft out and completed a few turns etc Rock said for me to slide out onto wing. With Rock watching on, like a mother goose with her young, I slide out and immediately start falling abit behind. Now after 10 years+ of looking where I am flying it feels against everyone of my instincts to fly where I am not looking. In a rather surprisingly cool and collected way Rock guides me closer and closer until I am far enough forward that I am looking 60deg or so off centre at his aircraft. At this point the speed, direction, attitude and general handling of the course is in Rocks hands. I have no idea where I am flying, how fast or high we are. You have to place total faith in the lead aircraft not to crash you into a mountain, or a factory…
Now anyone that has flown with Rock knows that he is afraid of heights so all his flights take place under 500ft, This is both exhilarating when doing formation work and scarier then a proposal from a Miss Universe contestant. Rock starts with a few basic turns, now when I say basic this is a relative term and a gentle turn for him is around 60-70deg, not surprisingly I got thrown out so far that he couldn’t actually see me and thought I had broken off! We progress through a few more left and right turns with some progress but a long way to go, I would show you some screenies but to be honest I am not sure you could even call it formation flying haha! After about an hour of doing this I was able to get closer especially during the level flight but the initial uptake on the turns was always my downfall. I would get thrown out at the start then spend the remainder of the turn getting caught up and back into position. Rocks eagle eyes had spotted this and a few more turns and some tips down the line and I was at least able to keep him in sight during turns. Dropping back into slot we do a couple of rolls and try a loop before breaking to land. Today would go down in history as a day where I first felt like a formation pilot. Although tough I knew it wasn’t going to get any easier but hell, I loved it.
The following day a good friend of mine installed DCS World to try his hand at flying, now he has previously said that it would never happen, having played Combined Arms with Max and I on a couple of occasions I donated an old stick and he started up the Su25. This was providing a little light hearted relief for Rock, Shahdoh and I, we spent the best part of half hour getting him airborne and then finding out 1 by 1 all the different controls we should have had him map to start with hehe. I guess it was quite predictable that Fadec and I would form up on his wing within 20 minutes of him being airborne. Now my mind casts back to part 1 of this blog where Rock was flying around me like a buzzard hunting. Oh how the tables had turned!! Fadec and I spent abit of time flying around with him, showing him the basics, time soon came around that he needed to land the jet. Now I ask all the readers here how they felt the first time they had to land a plane in a sim, remember? Well Khouri was crapping himself and although he didn’t get it down the first time he did on attempt number 3 and that wasn’t bad for a beginner! Ok granted he blew his nose wheel tyre but whats the saying? “Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing?” I guided Khouri through a few more flights and he started to get the hang of it nicely.
Seeing Khouri starting out reminded me of how far I have come in this journey, and I had the benefit of 10+ years of flying sims as well! Well Done mate, Stick at it and we will get you there.
Now as I wind down I have to make a mention to a friend of mine that has passed on this week, This is of course Jim Mackonochie, I knew Jim for many years and I was greatly saddened to hear of his passing, I would like to pass on my condoslences to his family and friends. Jim was a massive influence in the DCS/ED world as well as airshows and events around the country and will be missed greatly by all who knew him. Rest in Peace my friend and Blue Skies
Next time Rock and I turn the world upside down, it’s a big one gents! See you then!
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