Thursday, August 20, 2009

The post you all were waiting for!

“Anything that will blow snow on your balls is guaranteed to be a good time!” quote from anonymous V-22 Osprey pilot regarding the aircraft and it’s impressive air conditioning system. ‘

The first time I had ever heard of the V-22 Osprey was when I was I little kid visiting my aunt out in Washington state. She took my brother and me to see the Boeing factory up in Everett, WA. On the wall of the waiting room at the factory they had a picture of the prototype Osprey touting it as the obvious future of aviation.

Fast forward about 15 years:

For the past few months I have been here in North Carolina training to fly the production version of the same aircraft that I first learned about so many years ago. About 90% of this training has been sitting at a computer of some sort learing about the aircraft and how to fly it. This particularly fits as the V-22 is mostly a bunch of computers itself. Granted in a supremely sexy package, but still pretty much a flying computer lab.

See… fun shit. Up on my computer screen you can see pictures of other computer screens…

But after several months of playing with computers…

YESTERDAY: Finally! I got to touch the real aircraft, strap in, start the engines… and then had the computers freak out… and broke right in the chocks. No problem, we just gave the aircraft back to the maintenance dudes, told them what was wrong with the aircraft, and went home to try again the next day.

TODAY: Weather, about 98 Deg F on the flight line. 95% Humidity. We got out to the aircraft and were about halfway through the preflight when, “lightning within five” miles of the airfield caused us to have to come back inside. After about an hour of telling war stories about women and love stories about war we went back out. Son-of-a-bitch! almost everything seemed to be working on the aircraft! I guess we get to go flying!

These are my impressions of the MV-22 after my first flight today. I figure I should write them down while they are still fresh.

My first comment is that the quality of the air conditioner was vastly exaggerated!

Before I had even gotten out to the aircraft, as I was walking out across the ramp I could feel my sweat beginning to soak through my shirt and flight suit and into the flight equipment on the vest. I was totally drenched in my own salty sweat by the time I even sat in the seat. Once inside the cockpit it was nothing like the climate controlled happiness I had been expecting. It was even hotter than outside, with more stale locker room smell, but without the nice humid breeze that had been outside. Blow snow on my balls? More like loitering next to the drier vent on the ouside of a laundromat! Well maybe a little cooler than that, but nothing like the titilateing excitement I had been anticipating. One of the vents does blow on your crotch so… I guess it is partially right. Maybe I just had a bad air conditioner on this one. I fully realized the airliner pilot comfort I had been expecting was just a lost dream when I felt that first tricle of sweat forming on the small of my back and oozing down my butt crack into the seat… Whatever, I have sat under magnifying glass canopies for a long time. I had just been expecting more because of all the stories.

NOTE: I have learned that the technical term for butt sweat trickling into aircraft seats is called skeech. I believe it is a navy term.

Taxiing: Surprisingly easy. Once you get the hang of controlling your speed with your left thumb, your balance in the turns with your right hand, and the direction of your turn with your feet it is no problem at all. The brakes aren’t very good so after a few minutes you kind of consider them not even there. Overall it behaved very well as a rolling vehicle.

Hovering: (Alright, you have all been waiting for the obvious machine/female analogy… so here it is.) This thing hovers very easily… almost to easily! Your first pick up in any totally new to you aircraft is always a bit tenetive… like a first kiss where you don’t know for sure if she wants to be kissed. So, pucker up! It turns out she loves to be kissed! She lifts right up into the air with ease! In fact, it only took a few moments to realize that as far as hovering is concerned, she almost doesn’t even need my input. Sort of like a girl that knows how to get herself off so well that any fancy moves you try on her only slow things down. I realized that the less I wiggled the sticks, the more she liked it. So I obliged and let her hover herself as well as she pleased. Of course it was nice, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that she would hover just as well for any guy that sat in that seat. Oh well… I guess now I’ll go get a real girlfriend or a nintendo wii if I want something around that appreciates my hand eye coordination.

Conversion patterns: Otherwise known as “Helicopter patterns.” My first conversion pattern was no problem at all. Only once did my left hand and my brain get confused as to what I was supposed to do to control the power. (The thrust control in this is exactly backwards from a normal helicopter…) in the moment, my muscle memory and my conscious brain fought for what to do to. The instructor just made the standard comment, “we will log all three of those landings.”

Transition to Airplane!: This is what makes this aircraft fucking cool! After mucking around as a helicopter for about an hour, the instructor says to me, “Hey, you want to turn this thing into an airplane?” “FUCK YEA I DO!” my obvious answer. So, we coordinate our departure and he says, “alright, take off and turn to heading 332.” I hadn’t been expecting him to let me do this my first time without him demonstrating at all… but I didn’t ask questions and took off! (Now that I think about it, he let me do almost everything with out him demonstrating it first. I guess the simulator training worked.) To be honest, this thing gets a little squirrelly during the transition back and forth between helicopter and airplane modes. It really does throw you back in your seat pretty good. When the nacelles are in airplane mode, you have insane amount of thrust and acceleration available to you. This thing loves to go fast! It loves speed Ducati style! I found myself using most of my penguins to try and not break any low altitude speed limits or blasting off into space!

Speaking of blasting into space… This thing climbs like nothing I have ever seen. It will easily climb at over 5000 feet a minute. To give you some perspective on that, the next time you are driving in your car at 60 mph… think about how fast you are going… now imagine that you are going that same speed… only UP! That is an absolutely ridiculous clime rate to be able to SUSTAIN! It is also going forward at near 200 mph at the same time, but the impressive vertical component is the same as 60 mph… UP. Fucking wild man!

The Cadillac is fine to get to work, but check out Rolls Royce hanging on the wing out my window!

Thursday, August 06, 2009