TESTING A 'CENTURY'
CONTINUED

 

FLIGHT TESTING THE 'HUN'

In good test pilot tradition I managed to get hold of the 'books' so that I could learn as much as possible about the aircraft and its systems before obtaining a thorough pre-flight briefing from the owner: Dean Cutshall.  It was also an opportunity to learn the emergency drills should the worst happen!  During this preparation phase I tend to produce a 'knee-pad' guide of the aircraft that includes all the important numbers and procedures needed to fly the aircraft safely.  This saves valuable time when flying in an unfamiliar aircraft as the memory always seems to desert you when most needed - it is the only way to stay relatively safe using the correct numbers and procedures on a first flight!

The aircraft itself was everything that I expected:  really big, shiny and exciting.  The cockpit was a good size with a reasonable view out.  As with many of the earlier jet aircraft the front view was a little restricted due to the heavy metal reinforcing window posts that were designed to take the high-speed pressure loads using the canopy technology of the day.  Once in the cockpit it felt reasonably familiar and had many of the usual features and systems of US jets of that period.  Indeed, it was not that dissimilar to the T33 that I had flown on my test pilot course at Edwards.  What was very different was the magnitude of weapons switches and system-check devices.  These were further proof of the technology leap associated with this aircraft.  Many of the switches were now not operational in the civil world, or only used during the first flight of the day checks.  Once you got over the initial shock of how crowded the cockpit looked it really was reasonably simple.

The aircraft starting process was again very simple using an external air source.  In essence the engine was rotated using the external air until it was spinning fast enough to light up on its own (1200-1600 rpm).  The system was developed when the technology for jet self starting was still relatively in its infancy and added unnecessary complexity to the engine and aircraft.  For a modern civil operation the system is a little cumbersome as it needs an engineer on the outside to remove the air pipe and then replace all the aircraft panels.  Similarly, if operating away from base, it may be difficult to obtain the right air pack.  However, once started the sound of the engine and feeling of raw thrust was incredible.

After start, on the first flight of the day, the systems checks took about 20 minutes' and were mainly to check the back-up systems:  rudder, flight controls, airstart system, emergency fuel and so on.  The time required after start on subsequent trips was reduced to about 10 minutes'.  Taxiing the aircraft was very simple and the view over the long nose good.  It was also a time to complete the final, but essential, checks before takeoff.

 

The Fun Starts  (back to top)

The take-off was when the fun really started - mainly because it was the first time I had experienced the Hun's massive afterburner.  It was like nothing I had experienced before. On modern fighters the burner is relatively sophisticated increasing the power smoothly giving a feeling of 'controlled' fuel input and power increase - not so on the Hun.  Here the approach is simple - take a constant stream of buckets of fuel and throw them down the engine!  When the 'burner was selected there was an almighty bang and the jet lunged forward - quite an experience.  At this point I realized my professional approach to flight testing the F-100 had turned into a more realistic approach of "lets have some fun".  The acceleration down the runway was not sparkling by modern fighter standards but it was quick and in 25 seconds we were airborne, bringing the undercarriage up (lifting the nose at 145 knots and getting airborne at 160 knots at a weight of approximately 31,000 pounds).

The afterburner is normally left 'in' until a safe manoeuvring speed of approximately 300 knots has been reached.  Below this speed the aircraft feels very unresponsive and not in its element.  It also takes a long time to accelerate, particularly if only 'dry' power is used.  Once above 300-350 knots the aircraft is a very different beast and a joy to fly.  The controls are light and responsive (powered hydraulic controls) and the roll-rate is very quick.  One problem area with rapid rolling is the large amount of yaw activity as the roll is stopped.  This is caused by the adverse yaw from the movement of the aileron control surfaces, and is quite unnatural and not seen very often nowadays.  However, you very quickly learn to compensate for the effect.  In the pitch axis the aircraft is similarly nice to fly (above 300 knots or with flap down) with a very positive, stable feel about it.  During aggressive manœuvring the aircraft gave a clear sign, in the form of aerodynamic buffet, that it was reaching its maximum manœuvre performance.  This was a very usable feature allowing you to look 'out' during harsh manœuvres, 'playing' the buffet rather than having to keep looking in at the cockpit instruments - a very valuable asset for a fighter aircraft when all concentration needs to be out of the cockpit fighting the opponent.  One of the most noticeable qualities of the aircraft was the very smooth, quiet ride.  Again, this is a desirable quality for a fighter aircraft because when launching weapons it makes the pilot's task considerable easier if the aircraft is a stable platform.

 

All Good Things Come To An End  (back to top)

Unfortunately, with the older, powerful jet aircraft the fuel consumption is very high (4000-5000 pounds an hour in the cruise, at 90 percent rpm, and who dares to think what it must be in 'burner!).  This meant that recovery to base was needed, much before I was ready to give the jet up.  Still, all good things must come to an end and Dean pointed out that "if you want to get some 'pattern work' in, it's time to go home".

Back in the pattern the aircraft's surprisingly docile.  Downwind started at 240 knots, decelerating to 210 knots as the gear and first stages of flap were put down.  As the finals turn was started full flap was selected and a speed of 190 knots maintained.  The speed stability of the aircraft was very good making it easy to hold the speed on finals.  The approach angle used was 2.5 degrees (in common with most fast jets) and this required approximately 85 percent rpm.  As the runway was approached the technique was to reduce to a 'finals' speed, arriving at the runway at the 'over-the-hedge' speed.  Both these speeds were weight dependent and for my flight were about 180 and 150 knots respectively (28,000 pounds).

The first approach was intended to be a low go around using 'burner from about 50 feet.  Again, I was not prepared for the 'bang' on the 'burner, quite a thrill.  Because of the fuel usage we had to land from the next approach.  The same speeds were used and we touched down gently at 150 knots.  When the nose wheel was on the ground the 'brake' parachute was deployed, causing the opposite effect to that of the afterburner - very rapid deceleration initially, and hanging in the straps.  Again, the brake chute is a sign of the technology of the day because general wing design and high lift devices, to slow the approach speed, were not yet mature enough for production fighters meaning that without thrust reversers and high energy brakes a braking parachute was the simplest option and a must.  The landing run was quite long, even with the use of the brake chute, at about 8000 feet down to a safe taxi speed.  The 'book' figures give a much shorter landing distance (around 4500-5500 feet for the weight of N2011V) but this would involve maximum braking, and (when you are paying for the brakes yourself) is not required for normal civil operations.

Once back on the chocks I was left with the impression that this aircraft has so much more to show me.  I was glad to have experienced some of what has made this machine so popular with the pilots over the years.  My only regret was that I could not have another go!  My thanks to the Real McCoys (who made the flight test possible), John Dibbs and Dean Cutshall for making my 'taste' of the 'Hun' possible.

 

HISTORY AND OWNERSHIP OF SERIAL NUMBER 56-3948 - N2011V  (back to top)

Manufactured by North American Aviation, Inglewood, California and delivered to the United States Air Force on 25 March 1958.  Its assignments were:

 

HUN'S SPECIFICATIONS - N2011V  (back to top)

Description

 

Performance  (back to top)

 

Weights  (back to top)

 

Size  (back to top)

 

Propulsion  (back to top)

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