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Home Latest News About Me Being a Jetjock
Being a Jetjock PDF Print E-mail
Written by Arthur D Piercy   
Monday, 13 July 2009 10:10
23 July 2005

 - being a jetjock again after 18 years -

The opportunity of flying in a jet does not always present itself so when the situation does arise you have to grab it with both hands.

Such an opportunity presented itself on July 23, 2005 when I was invited to fly with the Sasol Tigers aerobatic team.

Jet FlightThe excitement was astronomical because it was almost 18 years ago that I last flew in a fighter jet. I must admit that the last flight I had in a jet was not the most successful so together with all the excitement there was also a small amount of anxiety.

Once the aircraft were fueled two to them were towed to Hanger 4 where the hoist was waiting. Here I met up with my trusty ‘chauffeur’ and leader of the formation Ralf "Ice" Dominic. With him was Martin "Super Glue" van Straten who was going to be Mandy’s pilot..

Then it was time to load me into the aircraft. The harness was fitted and all of a sudden I started lifting out of the wheel chair. What a weird sensation as I can’t remember when I was last stretched out like this. Up I went and then all I could see was this little hole in the aircraft I was going to be lowered into. Actually with hindsight it was perhaps the most gracious way of getting into the cockpit.

The next I knew there was a swarm of people all over the aircraft and cockpit area. Then Johnny "Jet" Hattingh started with the ‘strapping-in procedure’. Finally I was strapped into an L-29!

There was short moment of ‘panic’ when the straps were pulled tight. I couldn’t move a muscle, not that I can move too many muscles under normal circumstances. The claustrophobic feeling luckily lasted only a few seconds and then all the familiar memories came flooding back. It felt like it was just yesterday that I was being strapped to the Mirage.

Then suddenly came the familiar radio check-in and general chatter between the formation members. Next the canopy closed and I was ready to take to the skies. The familiar whine of the jet engine came when the starter was pressed and Ralf was kind enough to do all the checks and procedures out aloud.

Then the routine formation checks were called where the flaps are raised and lowered and the airbrakes checked, radio frequencies changed and off to the runway we went. The taxiing reminded me a lot of the Impala I used to fly as that also used the differential braking method. It felt like I could just take over and taxi this aircraft to the runway all by myself. If only the feet would move.

We lined up on the narrow Runway 29. Only now did I actually realize that there was a restriction in my neck movements because I couldn’t turn around to find out where Martin and Mandy were. Not to worry I am sure they are there. The engine wound up to this gentle roar in the background and Ralf was once again going through all the checks. I was trying to follow but not knowing where all the gauges were I found it was impossible. Then Ralf let go the brakes.

At about 180kph the aircraft lifted of the runway and we were airborne. A quick look to the right and there was Martin and Mandy in close formation. Ok yes they were in formation as well – one behind the other but Martin had the No 2 aircraft so close it felt like I could reach out and touch them. I had to start smiling because all I could see of Mandy was the top third of her red helmet, two hands and a video camera resting on the canopy sill. She was very short in the back seat!

Then Ralf handed over control of the aircraft over to me. I was flying a jet AGAIN! The L-29 really flies very differently to any other jet I had flown to date. The nose position is extremely low on the horizon and I had to continuously push forward on the stick to maintain straight and level. When we started climbing for FL100 the nose position was on the horizon. Very unusual!

In the meantime Martin and Mandy were anything but straight and level. They were barrel rolling around us. First to the left and then back over to the right. Then they were inverted just above us and I was wondering how Mandy was keeping her feet down. I later found out that she had ‘duct-taped’ her feet to the floor to prevent them from flopping around the cockpit.

On reaching our required altitude Ralf started with a few gentle barrel rolls. This was incredible and amazing. The sun was setting out to our right and on the ground the lights started sparkling as they came on. The aircraft dropped its nose and it was then a matter of rolling up from the dark to be positioned inverted looking directly at the kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and purples on the horizon to rolling back down into the dark again. Awesome is only one of the words that comes to mind. This happened a few times and I was amazed with my ability to handle the 3-4 g’s we were pulling without any ill side effects. I was not expecting it to go that well. Had time and light allowed I would have been ready to take on a few more manoeuvres.

Very quickly it was over and we had to reluctantly head back home again. After a low fly past over the airfield we positioned ourselves for final approach on Runway 11. Ralf did an amazing landing and then the age of the aircraft finally showed itself. Every time Ralf applied the brakes I heard this whooshing sound like on the big trucks as the pneumatic system recharges the brake pressures.

Jet Flight 2Back to the hanger to get me unloaded. This time it went a little easier and very quickly I was suspended above the aircraft. This time I felt like Superman flying through the air. I am sure the smile on my face must have said it all. The next thing I see is Mandy in this oversized flying suit with a smile so big you could just about remove the top of her head without any effort. When I gave her a big hug she was vibrating like a jack hammer from excitement. What an experience.

It is a very humbling experience to have people going out of their way to make my experience so enjoyable. Once again it highlights the importance of having friends in ones life.

I want to express a sincere and grateful word of appreciation and thanks to Ralf, Martin, Johnny and all those extra people who assisted us in having a life remembering experience. There is not way I can Thank You all enough.

Just the motivation I need to carry on!

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 January 2011 06:17
 

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I would like to Thank everyone for all the encouragement, support, motivation and belief that has been thrown in my direction over the years to date. You are all my motivators when times got tough and I felt like throwing in the towel. All it took was one positive email of encouragement to get me back on track and all fired up.

 
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