Flying with the Sky Warriors
Yes, I'm back from beautiful Atlanta, GA. Harry and I had the most incredible adventure of our lives! No kidding! Flying the T-34's with the Sky Warriors was incredible, and I couldn't have asked for a better companion than Harry. He was a perfect gentleman, and endlessly enthusiastic.
We arrived at the base at 10:00AM for our briefing. Each plane has a safety pilot in back, we fly the front. My pilot was "Rothman," Harry's was "Naked," I was "Fang," and Harry was "Gipper." We spent about an hour reviewing attack maneuvers and safety rules.
Then we suited up! (Mine was sandy beige, would have matched my Warrior perfectly.) After the suits, the parachutes went on. (OOOO, scary!) The planes had "Sky" camouflage paint jobs, and cameras mounted so we could have a video of our flights.
We took off in formation with Harry in the lead. We had a "Waldo Pepper" sky. After about 10 minutes Rothman let me take the controls and continue the formation to our destination. We wound our way up through those gorgeous clouds to 6,000 feet. We then spent quite some time working on those attack maneuvers. All of which involved lots of "G's" and lots of straight verticals. We were pulling about 4 1/2 G's. As the flight went on, I had trouble with my vision going black, but since I had Rothman I could just say, "your plane" and he'd instantly be back on the controls.
Then the actual battle began. We had two skirmishes, Harry didn't stand a chance, but it took me a long time to nail him. What it felt like, actually, was like two kids out playing a very strenuous game of tag. We pushed the envelope constantly, in and out of stalls and high G's. Yes, we were completely flying by ourselves. I learned a lot. The T-34 feels like an extension of your desires. It has a high wing loading, so is very stable, and because of the stick, you just shove or pull in the direction you want to go, and it springs to life. Because of the beautiful puffy clouds in every direction, it was easy to lose track of up and down. Flying inverted, diving and climbing were all the same. After those two battles we did formation loops. We were REALLY close together. Our safety pilots did the first two, then Harry did the next one (in formation) and I did the next. Yes, I looped the plane myself! Then it was back to the battle field. We did one more skirmish, I nailed him almost immediately and then I asked if we couldn't do some rolls. I couldn't handle any more G's.
It wasn't until my third try that I did a good roll, I had kept slipping into a dive when inverted.
And that's it. Flew back to the base with Harry on my wing. The safety pilots insisted on doing the landing themselves.....Rothman landed left of the center line....just like I do, so I felt very bonded with him, and could tease him lots.
The videos are incredible. We spent the next couple of days so pumped up I think anyone overhearing would think we weren't capable of talking about anything else except for flying.
We went to many wonderful places while we were there....my favorite was Ray's on the river. Because of the band that played there. Elgin Wells, who is also an aerobatic competition pilot, has an incredible band. They play Tues. thru Sat. and if you have a chance to catch him. Do so! I bought his CD and listen to it continuously. Kind of scat, bluesy, jazzy stuff.
That's it my friends. We should all be rich so we can play like that endlessly.