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April 27, 2016 was one of the best entries in my pilot logbook:  Air Combat Manoeuvring — “dogfighting.”  Air Combat USA was an outfit in Fullerton Airport, California.  We showed up at their hangar for a pre-booked flight.  Suddenly our world changed.  We were on an aircraft carrier.  We were about to launch into air combat against a real pilot, in a real fighter airplane, with badass ex-Navy and ex-Marine fighter pilots.

There were two little boys in those Marchetti SF-260 fighter airplanes that day.

     

     

Now, two years later, my former adversary Paolo sits all grown up in the cockpit of an A-330 airliner.  In fighter pilot lingo he is “flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong.”

    

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Paolo ready to go Mach 2 with his hair on fire.    

 

But two years ago, he travelled trans-Pacific the day before our knife fight and pleaded jet-lag.  He also claimed that he spent the night with “Charlie.”  Yeah, right.  I texted him that Charlie and I were already at the beach playing half-naked volleyball with Maverick and Goose.

We met at Fullerton and stepped through the looking glass.  We were instantly in an aircraft carrier fighter squadron ready room.  Within minutes we were ordered to the locker room to put our flight gear on. 

     

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Air Combat USA ‘Ready Room.’  

 

We considered recreating the locker beefcake scene from the movie. 

“Yes, Ice…man.  I am dangerous.” 

Tim, Paolo’s Dad, threatened to walk out if we stripped down to towels.  So we put our flight suits on and sat for the briefing.

    

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Tonet and Paolo

        

An ex-F-14 Navy jock, call sign ‘Spartan,’ ran the one-hour brief.  The biggest thing on the board was “LOOK GOOD AT ALL COSTS.”  The Marchetti SF260s we would fly had three video cameras – cockpit camera from behind looking forward; gun sight camera; and the ‘hero’ camera, which looked back at the pilots and was always on.  If your breakfast came up again, the hero camera would record the ballistics of every disgusting barf.

    

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LOOK GOOD AT ALL COSTS   

 

Then there was the cryptic “IYAC YAT” on the whiteboard.  “If You Ain’t Cheating, You Ain’t Trying.”  So the playbook allowed shady tactics?  These would be covered in the airplane after take off, we were told.

    

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IYAC YAT    

 

I went into the ladies room by mistake and the wisecracks were predictable. 

“The trophy for the alternates is down in the ladies room!”  Yeah, cracked me up.

We slipped into our parachute harnesses, then swaggered out on deck.  We hammed TOP GUN poses beside the airplanes.  We shamelessly pretended to shake hands.  The trash talk was personal and unforgiving.  ‘TOPGUN’ dialogue lines were abused again and again.

    

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The trash talk was personal and unforgiving.    

 

My engine wouldn’t start.  Paolo taxied out ahead, chortling.  My IP, an ex-Marine F-18 pilot, call sign ‘Mac,’ cycled our boost pump and the Lycoming O-540 fired.  After a formation take off we tested our guns on the way to the range.  When you triggered the Marchetti’s guns, a laser beam fired at the target airplane.  If you hit him, his laser sensors would ignite a smoke trail.  There would be no arguments about who won.

Watch the video of our aerial battle.  The barrel roll attack tutorial is interesting.  Paolo and I shot each other down in the first two practice dogfights, then we went at it tooth and nail.  Dogfights #3 and #4 were easy kills for me, since Paolo was focused on keeping his breakfast down.

    

Well if you were directly above him, how could you see him?  Because I was inverted.       “Well if you were directly above him, how could you see him?”

Because I was inverted.”

     

Then we squared off for dogfight #5. 

The video is worth watching just for this one dogfight.  We flashed past each other head on, left-to-left, then Paolo daringly went vertical, pulling straight up into the sky.  He rounded the top of the shuddering loop and dove.  I pulled a 4.5G split-S, my body weighed four and a half times normal and my Marchetti nibbled at the stall buffet as I tried to pull my targeting reticle onto him and light him up with my guns.  

    

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“You can run, kid, but you can’t hide.”

    

Paolo kicked off a miraculous recovery by wrenching his Marchetti into another high-G vertical egg, squeezing every bit of performance from his airplane. 

     

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“He’s still coming, he’s still back there.  C’mon Mav, do some of that pilot sh*t!”

    

After three mind-blackening vertical turns it was clear that Paolo had gained the edge, pulling tighter and flirting more daringly with the stall buffet.  He was almost on my tail.  ‘Mac’ suggested I reverse my turn, and I made it worse by hesitating in level flight for two seconds.  I realized my mistake and desperately rolled 90 degrees more to the right, but Paolo was already there.

     

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Subtitles Air Combat six Dogfights16 05 21 Final Synced Subtitles Complete-007”Goose, I WANT Viper”

     

Clearly, he was quite motivated to kill me.

He slashed in almost at right angles to me, a tough 90-degree deflection shot, where the target airplane was flashing perpendicularly across his nose.   He was also in a high closure rate, but his timing was exquisite as he held the trigger down. 

    

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The Defense Department regrets to inform you that your sons are dead because they were stupid.

  

‘Mac’ and I were toast.  Eject, eject, eject.

   

Blood in his eyes, Paolo wanted one more.  ‘Spartan’ and ‘Mac’ set us up head on again, and then Paolo and I took over our respective controls.  Dogfight #6.

As we neared each other, nearly head on, I slammed the stick left, even before ‘Spartan’ announced, “Fight’s on.”  IYAC YAT!  My Marchetti instantly rolled wings vertical.  As Paolo predictably went vertical again, I slipped across his loop, and it was my turn to rake him as he crossed my nose.  Guns, guns, guns, and it was over.

    

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 “Say hello to my little friend!”

       

“Say hello to my little friend!”  Mac rubbed it in with the Al Pacino’s line from ‘Scarface.’  Fighter pilots are suckers for movie lines.

     

We flew home in tight formation, pumped up and basking in the smug realization that for the rest of the day our shit would smell good.  Heroes.

 

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"We’re going home, Viper has the lead."

    

Los Alamitos Army Airfield, on our route home, made our day when they requested a low flyby.  Goose, it’s time to buzz the tower. 

“Marchetti Ball!”  We recovered with overhead breaks just like they do at aircraft carriers.  On the ramp they thought I had to be helped out of the cockpit.  I just sat there not wanting it to end.

At the debrief we watched both SD cards unreel in perfect synchronization.  Shirl, Paolo’s Mom and Dad, and my cousins Rico (United B777 Captain) and Jeepy (retired B747 Captain) snickered at our self-awe.‘

13256490_10153723575542857_8528318652359547966_n-00113220928_10153723574417857_7545210701070121694_n“Gutsiest move I ever saw, Mav.”

 

It was worth every cent.  Today, two years later, Air Combat USA is transitioning to new ownership, and I really hope they sort things out quickly, because I want to do this again.  And again.  And again.  Heck, Paolo even bid for the airline equipment that will get him into the LAX area for layovers.  Layovers my ass. 

    

    

Posted from Manila

April 27, 2018

Two years later

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Carlo has a excellent article on Bucket lists.  He was ready for a New Year’s Day publication.  I’ve held it up because I wanted to find the perfect photos for the article.  Soon, I promise, Carl – this week.

To pass the time, here’s a quick, very short story.

  

 

It’s January 3, 2015.  Carlo and I have just logged 4.5 flying hours.  We have been flying a wonderful group of aviation and flight simulator enthusiasts – former student pilots, current student pilots, future student pilots, R/C flyers, scale model builders, photographers, Facebook friends, fathers and sons.  Carlo and I are just using up fuel now, enjoying quiet time together in the sunset sky over Woodland Airpark.  We are happy-tired. 

     

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The hat I am wearing has been with me for 10 years.  I got it at the 2005 Hiller airshow at San Carlos airport in California.  

I lost that hat four days ago.  I misplaced it after flying with an old friend last December 30.  We are both Presidents of the only two flying clubs in the country. 

  

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The hat recalls a P-51C Mustang fighter airplane named "Berlin Express" flown by Bill Overstreet, an American World War II pilot.  Overstreet was a squadron mate of Chuck Yeager, who broke the sound barrier as a test pilot after the war.  Overstreet named his airplane "Berlin Express"  because his 357th Fighter Group regularly flew to Berlin as fighter escort for B-17 bomber missions, deep into wartime Germany.

     

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Overstreet flew in a dogfight over France in early 1944 against a Messerschmitt Bf-109.  The German pilot flew directly over occupied Paris so that the German gun batteries could shoot Overstreet’s Mustang off the Messerschmitt’s tail. 

His engine already hit and damaged, the German flew under the Eiffel tower in a desperate attempt to evade Overstreet.  Overstreet followed under the Eiffel tower, kept firing, and won the duel. 

     

"The Berlin Express Arrives in Paris"

  

Exactly a year ago, on January 3, 2014, Bill Overstreet, the pilot of Berlin Express, passed away.  He was 92 years old. 

Today, January 3, 2015, another pilot found and returned my ‘Berlin Express’ hat to me.

  

I should stop losing things.

  

   

Posted from Manila

03 January, 2015

 

William Overstreet’s obituaries:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2533373/WWII-fighter-pilot-flew-THROUGH-Eiffel-Tower-dies-Virginia-aged-92.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/captain-william-overstreet-pilot-who-claimed-to-have-chased-a-german-fighter-plane-under-the-base-archof-the-eiffel-tower-in-1944-9086555.html

 

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On Christmas Day 45 years ago, Santa left my presents at my Grandfather’s house in Manila.  My Dad watched with sparkling interest as I unwrapped my first airplane scale models, a Spitfire and a Messerschmitt.  I was 12 years old.

We had no colour TV, DVDs, internet, or computer games.  No computers, even.  The model airplanes filled my world.

     

Revell H611 Spirnarr

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It took me 45 years to fully unwrap that gift. 

   

   

    

  

My Dad’s delicious stories of World War II dogfights kindled my childhood interest in airplanes.  My son Carlo, of the TOP GUN generation, had his imagination fired up by his own Dad’s airplane stories.  Now we were in this amazing adventure together.

Our airplanes taxied line astern, canopies open, weaving side-to-side.

           

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We held short of the runway with three Cessnas.  Ardmore Tower re-sequenced all of us.  Carlo and I would take off together.  Just like the movies.  

   

  

Airborne and in formation, it was Christmas, Fathers Day and birthdays all in one.  We took photos of each other laughing out loud, tears in our eyes.  That unmistakable elliptical wing bridged us, less than one wingspan apart.

  

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

      

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Everything was perfect.  Blazing blue sky, creamy clouds edged in white gold sunlight.  Ecstatic pilots vaulting skyward in classic warbirds, streaming contrails of laughter.  Father and son.

  

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of…

         

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High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there… 
I flung my craft through footless halls of air….

 

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I slipped below Carlo, echelon left.  The sun slashed our canopies.  Overhead, towering cumulus raced us to altitude.

 

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —

  

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We rolled in tight formation.  Our hearts filled to bursting.  Our faces ached from grinning like schoolboys.

  

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We were having way too much fun.  Suddenly we were over England, and it was the summer of 1940.  Bandits, break right!

  

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In the video you can hear Carlo whooping into a barrel roll.  No stiff upper lip now.  “Whoo-hoo!”  Then a loop, aileron roll and steep wingovers left and right.

  

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Mickey Mouse stretched his arms.  Time stilled.

    

Miles away, Gavin and I pulled hard Gs.  Loop, barrel roll, aileron roll, a full Cuban Eight.  We were doing 300 miles per hour, 4,000 feet per minute in vertical up-lines.  Remember, this is a 72-year old airframe that survived 89 combat missions in World War II.  

We levelled out, snarling low over the Firth of Thames, rocketing past the North Island coast.  I jinked away from flakJust like the Spitfire model in my childhood bedroom.

Then we spotted the Harvard, the Hun in the sun!  Hard climb to his 5 o’clock, bit of left rudder, and a bit of Robert Shaw in the movie ‘Battle of Britain’…

“Tak-a-tak-a-tak-a-tak-a-tak!”

  

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We snapped into a vertical bank, our wings straight up and down as Carlo and JK spiralled low, dropping far below us.  “You can run, kid, but you can’t hide.” 

We took these last two photos of each other at almost exactly the same time.

  

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It was time to return to base, ‘pancake’ in RAF slang.  In less than an hour we had flown almost 80 nautical miles. 

As a final treat we shut down at the NZ Warbirds Association ramp. 

        

I thought of Santa and my Dad, who started it all.  As the memories streamed past, a fellow from NZ Warbirds took my photo.

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A very Happy Christmas to all our readers,

Make a bucketful of dreams come true in the New Year!  

  

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Posted from Manila, Philippines

December 24, 2014

     

     

Warbird Adventure Rides

http://www.warbird.co.nz/index.htm

   

New Zealand Warbirds Association

http://nzwarbirds.org.nz/

  

Lines from High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Spitfire pilot, killed in December 1941 at the age of 19

    

Twenty Five Years of Top Gunning

https://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/twenty-five-years-of-top-gunning/

   

My Dad and his Delicious Airplane Tales

https://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2007/04/05/my-dad-and-his-delicious-airplane-tales/

 

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I didn’t look up the Spitfire school website.  I could never afford it.  For two years I just watched the video of Alex James flying the Spitfire.  Here’s a rock star who once lolled in champagne with groupies in a hotel.  And was awed to tears by a World War II fighter airplane, “The prettiest girl at the ball.”  Lucky man. 

Fly a Spitfire, pfft.  It would never happen to me.

   

        

  

  

Carlo and I found Ardmore Airport at 10am.  The Spitfire flight was scheduled for 12 noon.  Already, I didn’t want the day to end.

Ardmore is just south of Auckland, in the beautiful North Island countryside of New Zealand.  Carlo and I wandered around the ramps.  Pilots fueled Cessna 162s at the Auckland Flying Club.  Instructors hovered Schweizer helicopters over grass.  A privately-owned Strikemaster attack jet ripped around the circuit.

             

My son Carlo, who used to watch TOP GUN every day at 1 year old, still watching airplanes

             

We watched two hangars in particular.  They harboured a matched pair of North American T-6 ‘Harvards’.

   

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A pilot pushed one Harvard out.  This must be Carlo’s airplane.  Warbird Adventure Rides had offered us a Spitfire and a Harvard to fly in formation.  Carlo and I meant to toss a coin for the Spitfire.  But I had made an executive decision sans currency.  Carlo, the English Professor, agreed to become a Harvard alumnus.

         

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We hurried over.  John “JK” Kelly, with 900 hours in Harvards, introduced us to the airplane.  The Royal New Zealand Air Force once had 200 of these training airplanes.  Ours, used for gunnery training, had a .303 machine gun in the starboard wing.  That Pratt & Whitney R-1340 gulped seven litres of gas per minute.  That’s seven times what our Cessna sips.  Nomnomnom!

  

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Carlo, in his Burberry, looked the RAF ace back from leave in Blighty, keen to get his ticket re-upped in a dicky op.

Other smiling pilots arrived.  Liz Needham, CEO of Warbird Adventure Rides, is a B767 airline pilot.  She has 20,000 hours in 37 years in aviation.  She is #2 in the Harvard “Roaring 40s” flying display team and also flies the P-40E Kittyhawk.

I checked my camera batteries yet again.  Then JK called out to me from the porch.  She was here.

   

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The prettiest girl at the ball.

I could only gawk.  I took several photos.  I wish I took hundreds.  I should have walked around, propped my camera on the grass, climbed a ladder, taken close ups.  The day was going too fast.

Safety briefing.  Pull bumblebee to jettison canopy.  Egress.  Clear the aircraft.  Pull parachute ripcord D-ring all the way out there.

                 

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Instructor pilot Gavin Trethewey would fly with me.  Gavin is ex-Air New Zealand and flew military jets in the RNZAF.  He stressed that, “This is your flight.  It is all about you.  We will do what you want to do.”

We briefed the op.  Formation photo shoot.  An aerobatic routine.  And I would fly the Spitfire through a low-altitude corridor near the Firth of Thames.  Down on the deck to evade Adolf Galland’s Jagdgeschwader 26.

Then we boarded the airplanes.

                  

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I was strapped to a Spitfire, cocooned in history.  Twisting around, I watched Carlo clamber into his own cockpit.  Carlo and I, who love airplanes almost as much as each other, were wingmen in this incredible adventure.

                  

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Too soon, it was time to go.  Clear ‘round, switches on, starter button.  The iconic Merlin V-12 engine was smooth and warm, like an old favourite song record.  The headset crackled, Gavin checking in.  But what I heard was a radio call for my childhood airplane models.

“Gannic Squadron, scramble, orbit station angels fifteen, bandits two-zero miles.”

      
    

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Posted from Köln, Germany.

13 December, 2014

  

  

    

Warbird Adventure Rides, Ltd.

http://www.warbird.co.nz/index.htm

Warbird Adventure Rides

  

   

   

            

History of Carlo’s Harvard:  The Royal New Zealand Air Force flew 202 North American Harvard T-6 trainer aircraft.  This was the advanced trainer flown by pilots before moving on to high-performance fighter aircraft.  This particular Harvard, NZ1057, served from the 1940s to the 1970s, then became a playground piece.  It was fully restored to airworthiness in 1998.

http://www.warbird.co.nz/harvard.htm

Harvard NZ1057

  

             

     

    

Want to hear what a Merlin engine sounds like?  Headset and medium volume recommended.  I played this here in Köln, Germany.  I thought the air raid sirens would go off.  This is the exact same Spitfire I was about to fly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xLVRCiHEAU

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New Zealand is breathtaking.  Most people see this fabled land second hand, in movies like Lord of the Rings or The Last Samurai

There are flyable Spitfires in New Zealand.

     

   

New Zealand is stunning from any altitude, from the window of a Boeing 777, the cockpit of a De Havilland Beaver, or an AS350 helicopter.  It’s almost a mythical landscape.

   

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New Zealand has a strong aviation heritage.  The country perches on the edge of the South Pacific, close to Antarctica.  Airplanes are vital here.  Helipads, grass airstrips and proud aircraft museums dot the countryside.

In Christchurch I once gave a talk under an A-4K Skyhawk jet at the RNZAF museum.  They also had a Spitfire. 

     

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Auckland has the Museum of Transport and Technology.  Their Avro Lancaster is an airplane that made The Dambusters famousThe Auckland War Museum has another Spitfire, a German V1 flying bomb and a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero.

    

       

I took Carlo to New Zealand last month.  Carlo lucked through visa, document and scheduling hurdles right into a new Airbus A380 to Auckland. 

    

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Carlo will always be lucky.  He is a teacher.  Teachers are angels assigned to earth.  I always stick close to Carlo. 

We all need luck.  There are things in life you just cannot work hard enough for.

When we arrived, Auckland was buffeted by thunderstorms, gusts to 120 kph, lightning strikes.  I walked with Carlo on the waterfront, waving him around like a magic wand.  The weather began to clear. 

     

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At the cruise liner pier there was a Perry-class guided missile frigate.  I built a scale model of this 20 years ago.  Our walk was turning curiouser and curiouser.

     

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The Lancaster bomber dwarfed Carlo.  Those Rolls-Royce Merlin engines were legendary.  A Lancaster could carry to Berlin a load bigger than that of three American B-17 Flying Fortress. 

     

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The De Havilland Mosquito light bomber could carry a 4,000 ‘Cookie’ bomb to distant targets.  Merlin engines again.  Frederick Forsythe’s Shepherd.

  

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Carlo said I spent a quarter of an hour photographing the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine of the Spitfire at the War Museum.  I was being a nerdy engineer.

     

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That Merlin and the Spitfire’s wing are the Holy Grail of aircraft engineering. 

In a dogfight, you must get behind your enemy.  Then he can’t shoot back.  The Spitfire’s elliptical wing could turn a full circle faster than the German Bf-109 or the American P-51 Mustang. 

Eight guns, four inside each wing, gave the Spitfire massed firepower.  The Bf-109 could fit only one gun inside each wing, the P-51 just two or three.

        

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Wings are choices.  Long wings fit more guns but roll slower into turns.  Short wings snap into turns but have less lift and internal space.  Thin wings are faster, thick wings stronger.  Narrow wings have less drag but also less lift.

You now know more than the average pilot.  Pilots don’t read aerodynamic theory.  That’s because engineers use long words like spanwise flow, mean chord length, aspect ratio, or lift coefficient to describe what they want.  Pilots use words like sleep, food, money, and sex to describe what they want. 

  

Bet you were wondering what this article’s title was about.

   

Carlo and I had to get to Ardmore airfield.  A taxi would cost 250 Kiwi dollars.  A rental car was cheaper, but I’m too old to learn right-hand drive. 

Then we made a wrong turn on Queen Street during our walk.  We bumped into an old friend on the sidewalk.  He insisted on driving us to and from Ardmore.  He could visit his Dad there anyway.

    

Luck.

     

  

Posted from Chicago, Illinois

05 December, 2015

  

  

  

The Spitfire at Ardmore

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4l5MAorZpx0

 

More Kiwi airplane museum tales

https://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/you-had-me-at-dambusters/

https://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/kiwi-warbirds/

 

The Dambusters!

https://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/the-dam-busters/

 

How bad was the weather when we arrived?

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/weather/news/article.cfm?c_id=10&objectid=11350465

  

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My bucket list always had it.  To fly a Spitfire.  Impossible, of course.  “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”  Winston Churchill’s soaring words during the Battle of Britain leave a painful edge today.  Of 20,351 Spitfires built, fewer than 35 are still flying.

  

     

  

  

I’d seen a Spitfire but once, its legendary Merlin engine snarling at an airshow over Arnhem.  A Kiwi friend told me years ago that Spitfires flew at Warbirds Over Wanaka, the biennial airshow in New Zealand.  I scoured their website.  Spitfires, yes.  Rides, no.

Then The Telegraph published a story about learning to fly a Spitfire. 

Learning to fly a Spitfire?

    

  

Alex James, a popular figure in Britpop, plays bass guitar for the British rock band Blur.  After a rather decadent lifestyle he has settled down with wife and family.  He did a bit of song-writing and TV gigs.  He also became a renowned cheese-maker.  He has been a pilot for 17 years.

This was a double bucket list irony for me.  Rock star.  Fly a Spitfire.  Damn.

   

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The Telegraph published James’ article on Spitfire training in October, 2012 (link below).  Boultbee Flight Academy in the UK offers intro and conversion courses.  They even have a fighter appreciation course.  You scramble with another Spitfire to intercept a Messerschmitt Bf-109.

I didn’t even look up their website.  I could never afford that.

 

So I just watched Alex James’ video in the Spitfire (click on image below).  Here’s a guy who once lolled in champagne with the five prettiest groupies in a hotel.  Now awed to tears by a World War II fighter airplane.  Lucky bastard.

 

Alex James Learns to Fly a Spitfire -- Telegraph.co.uk/video

I’m Alex James and  I’ve had a pilot license for about 15 years.  But I still can’t actually look at a Spitfire without crying.

The most beautiful handling aeroplane I’ve ever flown.

Such an overwhelming head rush of imagery.  You’ve got green and pleasant land, and seeing the other Spitfire… I was crying for most of it.

An incredibly well-balanced, beautiful flying machine.

        

I watched it a lot.  Shared it on Facebook. 

Fly a Spitfire, pfft.  It could never happen to me.

   

   

 

  

Posted from Singapore

27 November, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to readers in America

  

Next week:  Already, I Didn’t Want the Day to End

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Alex James’ full article in The Telegraph.  

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/9605171/Alex-James-flies-a-Supermarine-Spitfire.html

  

The video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8AogiF8OOI

  

Another Spitfire video I enjoyed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iOoiEbtf2w

 

Boultbee Flight Academy, Spitfire flight training.

http://www.boultbeeflightacademy.co.uk/

  

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Kiwi Warbirds

       

       

I grew up on a steady diet of World War II books and movies.  The war had been over just 12 years when I was born, and my Dad had lived through it.  I devoured his stories, books, went with him to movies.  I still can’t remember the title of one movie he took me to, where a pilot flew his B-17 without the 9-man crew, to look for the enemy fleet.  The hero flew until he no longer had the fuel to return, but accomplished his mission.  Never forgot that.
         

      
       
       
       
         
The first airplane model I ever built was a Spitfire.  Santa paired a Spit and an Me-109 for that year, 1/72 scale.  I can still see the models clearly in my mind, the desperate battles I flew in fiercely contested airspace in my bedroom.
  
I had never seen a Spitfire up close.  I saw one, about 2 million kilometres away, over the Ginkel Heath drop zone during an air show commemorating Operation Market-Garden. 
  
So when Anna, my friend in New Zealand, took me to the Auckland War Museum last March, I reacted badly.
   
I cut through the line, pushed past everyone.  I tried to climb over the rope cordon.  I shed tears.  Anna ushered her daughter away and considered calling for professional help.  “Calli, remember what I told you, don’t follow him, he is a little strange, even if he’s my friend… .”
   
  
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There was a Merlin engine next to the airplane.  You could press a button and fill the room with the symphonic performance of a Merlin engine starting up.  They finally dragged me away after I had pressed it about 162 times.  
   
  

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I was fed lunch and taken on a long drive to calm me down.  Then Anna and Neil finally decided they could safely take me to MOTAT, the Museum of Transport and Technology.

I went berserk.

They had a Lancaster!  A De Havilland Mosquito!  A De Havilland Vampire!  A DC-3, a Lockheed 10 Electra, a Tiger Moth! 
      
     
      
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It was all too much.  These are the best airplanes from the movies with my Dad!  The Dam BustersMosquito Squadron, and 633 SquadronAmelia Earhart, and the exquisite flying scene with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in Out of Africa.  And my most loved books.  Frederick Forsythe’s The ShepherdFate is the Hunter. All in the same place!  Oooh.  Oooh.
    
    
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It was all too much.  I had to sit down. 
  
  
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There was another button, you could start a radial engine.  Again and again, and again.  They had a briefing tent for a bombing mission over Germany.  There were exhibits on Bomber Command; the Battle of Britain’s Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park, KBE, MC, DFC, who was Kiwi; aircraft carrier models; dioramas of dogfights.  There were leather helmets and flying jackets you could wear.  
    
    
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You try grinning for an entire day.  My face hurt for days, long after I got back to Singapore.  
  
Thank you Anna, Neil and Calli  Smile
   
   
  

   
Posted from Positano, Italy
May 29, 2014

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