The DEW Line has been quiet as of late… that’s because I’ve been on multiple back-to-back trips to various places during this past month.
Last week was Boeing’s pre-Farnborough air show media tour. The tour started off here in Washington DC but quickly moved to Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Hurlburt, as I am sure most of you know, is the home of US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).
The AFSOC crews graciously showed us around their AC-130 gunship and also the Bell-Boeing CV-22 Osprey special operations version of the V-22 tilt-rotor.
I was impressed with the AC-130. It’s an older airframe, but a capable one. It’s basically a legacy C-130 fitted with a 25mm Gatling gun, a 40mm Bofors cannon (WWII vintage) and a 105 mm cannon. Except for the 25mm, the other two weapons are hand-loaded–which means it’s hard work for the crew. It’s not just the manual labor; it’s also the fact that it is quite cramped back there. It also gets pretty hot (and smoky) when the weapons are firing. Hats off to those guys… but their lot might be improving soon–the new AC-130J is in the horizon.
The 8th Special Operations Squadron also afforded us the chance have close look at one of their CV-22s. It’s quite similar to the Marine aircraft, but has some added hardware–a terrain following radar for example. Also the USAF seems to take better care of their planes, but admittedly, it was a much newer aircraft than the USMC birds I’ve flown in before.
But the really interesting part for me was a chance to fly 19th SOS’s CV-22 simulator. It’s not an FAA Level D sim with full-motion, but it’s quite close. While it doesn’t move, it’s realistic enough that your brain thinks it’s moving.
What was a little surprising is how easy the CV-22 is to “fly”. It’s a pretty standard setup with the stick/cyclic, throttle/collective, and rudder/anti-torque pedals–but in helicopter mode the collective works backwards. That caused me some problems, but I’m told people get used to it after a few sim rides. I wasn’t used to it…
Anyways, for takeoff, you use a thumb wheel on the throttle/collective to rotate the engine pods to 87 degrees and smoothly push up the power. Like I said, it works like a throttle rather than a collective–so it’s a little weird. Then as you lift-off, as you build up speed, you tilt the pods forward and eventually convert fully to turboprop mode.
Assuming the sim is accurate, which the USAF guys say it is, the aircraft is a sports-car–just awesome. I was motoring along at 330 knot indicated airspeed actually pushed it up into a 45 degree climb… It slowly bled off airspeed but didn’t stall–I saw the airspeed coming down to 140 knots and I pushed the nose hard over to recover airspeed. It was very responsive… now if only they’d let me fly the real thing.
Landing was also pretty easy, it a matter of simply rotating the engine pods via the thumb wheel and easing the aircraft down to a landing. Again, the collective/throttle setup was a bit tricky… since I accidentally cut power instead off adding power. But it all worked out–good smooth landing.
So next time I’ll tell you guys about our flight on these Gulfstream 200s to Kelly Field, Texas, and on to Edwards AFB, California.