Friday, November 8, 2019

Aircraft Flight Deck Duty

By, Eric Johnson
A6E Intruder Plane captain
AMH-5, US Navy, 1973-77

This is a short story you might be interested in coming from personal experience. Its about the dangerous job of flight deck operations aboard US Navy Aircraft Carriers. Not glider related but the Jets have wings too...

I’m not one to brag or make light of my achievements in life, but in this case, I can honestly state a fact,
I worked in one of the 3 most dangerous jobs in the world!
 
Being a teenager just out of high school in 1972 without a job and no prospects in sight, I had to make a "Y" in the road decision. I just acquired my military draft number in high school from good ole Uncle Sam, #298 I believe when 350 was the cut-off. I was more than likely bound for Vietnam! I had 90 days to report for a physical. So, I did what every other scared kid would have done to avoid carrying a rifle in some foxhole witnessing pain and agony. I spoke with my cousin Don who had just been discharged from the Air Force and his best friend Tommy who had also just been discharged from the Navy. I was looking for some advice from their experiences that would help me make this important life decision. Out of these conversations I decided I didn't want to go to Germany or some other foreign country in the Air Force. Also, I was very concerned about living aboard a ship in the middle of the ocean! So, I chose Airplanes aboard ship. How I came to that resolve, I’m not sure to this day except Tommy had mentioned, "if you join the Navy, be an "Airdale", so you don’t work at the bottom of the ship as a ‘Blackshoe’ where you will never see the light of day or breath the fresh air again!” Tommy's second piece of advice was "Make sure you sign up with a guaranteed "A" school program. I joined the US Navy!

"I haven't the slightest idea where I’m going or what I’m doing" 
So I’m fresh out of Boot Camp in San Diego with orders to report to jet engine "A" school in Millington Tennessee. I report in, I take all the fundamental entry exams for aviation technician and my counselor says, "The aircraft jet engine billet is filled up, we can offer you sheet metal or the aircraft hydraulics tech." Dejected I chose hydraulics of which I hadn't a clue what it was. After 4 months of intense schooling only 11 out of 45 students graduated! I was 4th in class, a natural to my surprise.

 Left end top row, 1973

Everybody in the Navy at this point of their rookie first year are pretty nervous about now not knowing where they are going to send you next. I filled out what the Navy calls a "Dream Sheet" at the beginning of the school session that I believe to this day was used to let you do just that - Dream. If I remember correctly, out of 10 choices, I picked 4 or 5 west coast locations, a couple each Southern and Midwest locations, and 1 east coast location, Virginia Beach, VA. So, after graduation we waited a week for our next set of orders to arrive. Guess which dream I got - Virginia Beach! The orders said “Sea Duty" with Attack Squadron 42, NAS Oceana Virginia, A6E Intruder. I was ok with the plane, certainly not the sea duty. This is NOT exactly what I would call my dream!

"Is it possible I’m a little over my head?" 
 Up to this time I had heard from the other veteran sailors that working on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier was a life or death situation at best especially at night. I just ignored the comments or maybe I subconsciously resisted to believe it out of fear. When I reported for duty, they told me to “Go check in at the line shack. You’re going to be a Plane captain for a few months.” What the heck is a Plane captain? It didn't sound like a hydraulic technician to me, did they make a mistake? Wrong. Come to find out, being a Plane captain for a minimum period of 12 months was required before you qualified to work in the shops.


 My Plane Captain cert.


I served aboard the USS Saratoga, CV-60



USS Forrestal, CV-59



 USS Lexington, CV-16



The Plane captain is the person that has the most intimate hard-working relationship with the aircraft. They are the last people to visually examine an aircraft before it is sent on its way. 18 hours day and night he or she washes it, inspects it, starts it, launches it, retrieves it, refuels it and actually finds themselves talking to it in language I cannot repeat here! Basically, they are the sailors that certify the aircraft is safe and ready for the next combat mission.

        
Eric launching 504 for bombing run training.

One of my favorite tasks performing this incredibly important job was doing the walkaround with the flight crew. This is where your work is scrutinized to a tee and questions are asked of you to answer in a completely truthful and positive manner with a paper trail backing you up. You see, after the PC has turned in the post flight inspection results to all the shops, he has to follow up that they have done their routine and special maintenance on the aircraft with the proper signed documentation before the flight crew sits their butt in that aircraft. If the aircraft has a major in-flight failure and you haven't done your homework on getting the plane in tip-top shape, "your ass is grass" as they say! So, I enjoyed walking around with the pilots because I knew I had done an excellent and thorough job for them because I didn't want my ass to be grass! Then you could talk to them in normal fashion like, how’s the wife and kids and did you have a nice weekend or something instead of standing there in stark terror thinking, did I remember to check the hydraulic fluid level in the main reservoir?


It's getting real, my no. 512 ready to catapult off the USS Forrestal, 1974.

"Jet Pilots are Ego Maniacs"
There were a few pilots that always displayed a macho by the book stone faced stature that was intimidating to all of us. Our commanding officer was one of them. I realized later after I completed my four year tour that these pilots deserved to act how ever they wanted towards us enlisted pukes. You see, I realized for a pilot to be the best he or she can be taking the risks needed in order to defeat the enemy or protect our troops on the ground, they need a GIGANTIC EGO to do so. If your life depends on a single jet pilot’s actions in the cockpit, I want them to believe they can do and be anything they want to be. It just comes with the territory.

"The scary part of a Plane Captains job"
The one thing they do time after time on a daily basis is assist the flight crew in strapping them into the cockpit ejection seats. I attended 3 weeks training on the GRU7 ejection seat before becoming a Plane captain and I’m glad the Navy spared no expense in these classes. Not only do you help them get comfortable in the seat, you also arm the seat. That is to say, you pull out all the safety pins to make the seat ready for firing the pilots out of the aircraft should they encounter a sudden emergency situation. These lifesaving seats travel around 300 feet per second and pilots can pass out! You can imagine what would happen to both the pilot and the Plane Captain if there were an accident on the ground during this strapping in process. Probably a mess you wouldn't want to witness! Oh yes, the GRU7 seat is powered by a series of fuel rocket motors underneath it and they burn around 4000 degree's! This is just one of the many daily highlights enjoyed by the trained Plane captain. Then, doing this service aboard ship while the jet engines are running in pitch black darkness at midnight in the middle of the ocean with aircraft screaming by at 200 mph. Now we're talking about a real scary existence. You better know what you are doing up there.

"Was this my dream job?"
They say the top 3 most dangerous jobs on earth are, 1. Oil well fire Fighting, 2. Flight deck Duty, 3. Law Enforcement. I served aboard the USS Forrestal, USS Saratoga, USS Lexington, and I tend to believe Flight deck Duty is number 1 for these reasons:

1. If you’re not paying attention, you'll be blown overboard into the sea from 100 feet up by the jet blast, which I’ve witnessed, possibly never to be found again especially at night. I came close to this myself, once!
2. Sucked into a Jet Engine Intake maiming and probably killing you instantly.
3. Wiped out by the failure of the aircraft arresting cable that catches the plane on landings.
4. Crashing aircraft on the flight deck due to pilot’s stupidity or equipment failure.
5. Dismemberment of limbs on catapult takeoff of aircraft should you forget it’s a missile 24 inches away.
6. Walking into a spinning ghost-propeller at night from not paying attention to see or hear your way.



"There is life after being a Plane Captain"
I was finally transferred to the hydraulics shop after 18 months of very hard and intense work. The shop was a good solid grounding that greatly complimented my experience on the flight line as an aircraft hydraulic flight controls troubleshooter the next 2-1/2 years of my tour. What did I enjoy the most while facing danger every day on the flight deck? The camaraderie first, and the fact I could successfully accomplish flight readiness of multimillion dollar aircraft for the precious flight crews. And the result of the experience rewarded me with the hydraulics career I have enjoyed for over 40 years!

I think of my Plane captain brothers everyday who are serving aboard ships today knowing the grueling and dangerous work they are performing to keep the birds in the air, and our country free...


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Nature Teaches Us




Did you know?

Some species of the Albatross can live up to 80 years old. They hatch one newborn every other year of their life. And this is staggering information recently discovered. The Albatross glides over the oceans a minimum of 8 months per year without stopping and rarely flapping their wings. And the Southern Albatross shown here glides around Antarctica 5 times per year averaging 600km per day!

Amazing Fact: The oldest known female Albatross is 67 years old, her home base is Hawaii. Her name is Wisdom and she has flown 2 flights of mileage to the moon and back, and in 2018 has begun her third flight to the moon!


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Celebrating 10 Years of VTPR

Originating in France, VTPR type of RC glider aerobatics has been flown over 3 decades. Even earlier back in the 1960's in certain forms that were called "freestyle" aerobatics here in America and abroad. There is a long rich history leading up to its concept, description and introduction by the French, to America and beyond.

This website was originally hosted by a previous server in 2009 and since 2012 has been bringing you French style VTPR content on the blogspot platform with excitement and dedication to the sport. We are very proud of our global reach in posting new content for your viewing pleasure, and will continue to do so.

Personally, I have been an RC slope glider enthusiast since 1992 in Southern California. This sport has been very enriching, fun and has made many advancements since those days and even more for those of you who have been sloping since the 60's. It’s incredible to see so many innovations in model equipment, design and flying types even in the last 10 years since this platform was launched.

Aresti type aerobatics with its pinpoint perfection figures has dominated the world and the American scene for decades and still does to this day with powered planes and slope glider modeling alike. It has been the foundation of what we do on the slope or the field aerobatically. Then around 2005, we heard about this French aerobatic type called VTPR (“Voltige Très Près du Relief”), described as “aerobatics very close to the ground”. And not within feet, but inches of the ground, even touching! It continues to gain popularity ever so slowly due to its extreme proximity to the hard ground. As a result of a core group of American VTPR pilots/modelers, since 2005 there have resulted new and exciting model designs and assembling techniques that has moved the marker forward into some amazing results. Wooden and EPP modeling has advanced into very lightweight designs all in order to hand the pilot a very neutral and highly aerobatic platform that produce maximum results in performance and fun never seen prior. Larger composite/crunchy type models have also advanced into the French VTPR mode and continues to do so. As of this writing the VTPR concept I believe has finally caught the American eye on the slope as a viable and permanent style/type from here on out.

In 2018 on this blog site, the VTPR milestone marker quietly moved again into a new concept coined PARK-VTPR or VTPR aerobatics performed not on the slope, but over the plain or flatland with electric motor assist MVG's “very close to the ground!” This new direction is going to prove both difficult and very rewarding. And we at VTPR Aerobatics are excited and happy to bring you the latest results of this slow movement into the flat with new model designs (as shown below), techniques, and flight videos we hope you enjoy and are inspired to move into your own PVTPR efforts. We are already seeing positive input and ideas from our electric power glider friends wanting to explore this concept.

Summing up, the prior 10 years have proven to be very positive and alive with advancements in the hobby. 2019 is looking like a year of new cutting-edge ideas in powered gliders, and flying low as you can go holds some positive promise as well going forward. It’s time to build and fly… EJ


Julian Benz as LOW as he can go!


MVG (motorized VTPR glider) preview video's for 2019...




Sunday, December 16, 2018

PARK-VTPR on RC Groups

A new thread on RC Groups is underway exploring this new VTPR Aerobatics style, and new efforts in glider development for the style. The thread is focused on transitioning VTPR from the traditional French style slope version, to a still-air version on the plain. A short introduction is posted in our pages section to get you up to speed. Join in and check out the RCG thread as this new and exciting next step in VTPR Aerobatics unfolds into 2019.

As LOW as you can go on the flat!


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Who's the BEST in the World?

"And the best VTPR pilot in the World is..."

C'mon, everyone has a favorite. With any sport, to say who is the best is always subject to opinion unless hard performance numbers of record are presented. Therefore since there are no hard numbers in VTPR aerobatics yet, I take liberty to share my opinion. You may or may not agree, that's alright. The sport of VTPR is subject to many factors, primarily the glider model selected, pilot skills, the geography of the slope where it is flown, and too many more to list here. Those presented here are in my opinion the current top 6 pilots on the planet. And I am sure there are more I am not aware of. They are shown not necessarily in the order of ranking. My number #1 pilot is here but I leave you to guess who he is. Who is your #1 VTPR pilot?

Item of note. All the pilots in this line up are flying composite (no foamies) 2.5 meter wingspan class or more. There are many great pilots that fly 2 meter or less models, but the 2.5 is what the French designate as the "sweet spot" size that can perform "all manner" of VTPR. And who would know better than our French friends who invented VTPR? This writer concurs with them...


Eric Poulain - France
Master Poulain is by far the smoothest VTPR pilot in my opinion. He enjoys painting the sky with his trusty Excalibur 2.0 as if he is Rembrandt! He never appears hurried or tense. He controls the glider aware of every nuance of weather changes while maintaining beautiful lines and figures. Video courtesy SlopeAerobatics.com.



Guillaume Leroyer - France

Guillaume (William) Leroyer is pure amazing! He has many club aerobatic championships under his belt. He also fly's many different types of model airplanes. He is especially excellent with powered 3-D flying. But in glider VTPR you will notice a distinct flying style than the others. He is for the most part flying low all the time. The only period you see him get a little elevation is to gain speed downward into VTPR mode. He manages the air and the glider gloriously! His maneuvers are a bit racy and cleaner than the others. He is an exciting pilot to watch. Video courtesy Michel Leroyer.



Remi Le Besque - France
Remi Le Besque is a fantastic pilot. Notice Remi with the red and black Excalibur 2.0. He and his partner, the other great pilot Eric Poulain share video time here. Its an older video but let me tell you, the content is up to date, still cutting edge gliding very few can perform. What I love about his style of VTPR, its always low but not necessarily slow. Remi is a racer by heart that goes for it no holds barred! Sometimes I just know he's going to crack up the glider but he fly's through the most dangerous low maneuvers that can possibly be performed with a glider, and he does it beautifully crisp and clean. Video courtesy Pierre Rondel.




Ronan Calloch - France

The glider is Limande. It's designer and pilot is Ronan. The first thing you will notice is the glider is very predictable with virtually no bad habits. Its completely neutral and has a limited top speed range. This sounds counter to good flying models but in the case of VTPR, its exactly what you want. Ronan is a fantastic pilot as you can obviously see here. He explores all manner of VTPR in a daring, exciting and very smooth way. Definitively a world class flyer and designer in the sport today. Video courtesy Ronan Caloch.



Cody Remington - USA

Cody is one of America's top pilots winning the 2009 World Youth F3J championship. He was coached by Skip Miller. Here is a video of Cody tearing the sky up VTPR style with his Espada glass ship in 20 plus MPH winds. His energetic and confident style captures his youthful approach to flying. He's not a VTPR pilot per say, but I think we can see he can fill a world class role with no problem. Being the only American on this list, in my opinion Cody qualifies as the US ambassador. Video courtesy Wakuman on RCG.



Joel Metz - France

Joel is such a smooth and confident pilot as well as a great videographer. He can surprise you with some nice beautiful and predictable figures, then all of a sudden will negotiate some technically dangerous figures without batting an eye. He makes it look so easy... One of the best there is. Video courtesy Joel Metz.


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In this handful of greats, who is your No.1 VTPR pilot in the World?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The VTPR Channel


 Check out the VTPR Channel on RC Groups for up to date videos, photos and model builds.


Copy and paste or click link:




FLYER 2.5m at home!


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Club Flying at Menez-Hom

http://www.nbn.de/Thumbs/VTPR_2018_klein.jpg

The text basically says "Club Flight from Menez-Hom Slope, Sunday, 1st April, 2018. The video quality is great, the location is epic and the flying is amazing. Click on image to watch the video. Be sure to let it load up.


Original FUN VTPR



 Video courtesy ironman 29

VTPR in its beginning some 35 years ago as far as we know in France, began as a fun day of flying doing tricky games with gliders. It wasn't about precision aerobatic maneuver flying, or flying the highest or the fastest. It was centered around a group of guys letting it all hang out low to the ground performing fun yet dangerous moves to the glider. And it came to be known that a 2.5 meter glider hits the sweet spot for performing this fun and dangerous style while still looking majestic and smooth in the air.

What we have here is a session at Menez-Hom where the guys are competing for fun around a water bottle for prizes. Enjoy this rare glimpse into original French VTPR... EJ

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Flyer Light VTPR


 Video by JUJUB479


If you want to see what low & slow looks like, this is the example for you would be pilots and spectators alike to enjoy. The glider is a 2.5 meter Flyer, a privately designed purpose built VTPR ship. Take special notice at when the pilot deliberately dives and drives the glider back up, the inertia increases very quickly readying it for the next aerobatic figure. This is due to the gliders very clean design (minimal parasitic drag) and efficient wing airfoil. Another element of being able to fly low to the ground for long distances cleanly is the geography and shape of the slope. And the constant and predictable wind volume. This is a perfect flying site and glider for so much fun...


Monday, August 20, 2018

Beach Ballet VTPR



Video courtesy JUJUB479

Here we have an Excalibur 2.5m and a Pentix 2.0m doing some VTPR flying at the beach. Lift is very light though it is smooth and predictable. What a fun afternoon at the beach ballet.