23 April to 3 May 2012
Since I last gave you an update, I received a PIC (Pilot in Command) check for Engineering Test Captain (ETC) in the AT-6 and T-6. I flew a flight in the Baron to Jasper County (JAS). I also conducted a flight test in the AT-6 to prove the endurance of the aircraft.
The checkride went great and showed the qualities of the aircraft. I flew Production Representative Test Vehicle (PRTV) AT-2. The checkride mostly involved safety and knowledge of the basic aircraft and systems. We flew a clean aircraft and completed some advanced maneuvers. They are maneuvers approved for the aircraft, but that the USAF doesn’t fly. Primarily, it was advanced spins and advanced aerobatics. The advanced spins are the kinds of spins a student or inexperienced pilot might accidentally get into. This was good training too. I did a Derry turn. What’s that? That’s what I asked. It’s an underside positioning aileron roll. I did a vertical roll. That’s where you point the aircraft straight up and roll 360 degrees. I did a vertical eight that turned into a stall turn. That’s a low speed turn at about straight up. Once you get an aircraft going straight up, you are along for a ride. The trick is to maintain aircraft control as much as possible and get the aircraft going where you want it to go without departing it.
After aerobatics, spins, and stalls, I flew over to El Dorado (EQA) for an Emergency Landing Pattern (ELP). That’s a pattern where you set the throttle (PCL (Power Control Lever) in the AT-6 or T-6) at zero thrust and simulate an engine flame out pattern. The AT-6 is easy to fly and control in any ELP. As long as you can glide to a length of concrete, you can safely land the plane.
I flew up to Newton (EWK) for a WAAS and ILS. We finished up at BEC (Beech Field) for a GPS and patterns. I passed.
The trip to Jasper County (JAS) was mostly IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) both ways. I had to fly a GPS approach at JAS and at AAO on return. The flight was great and there were no problems. The weather wasn’t really that bad, but the ceilings were too low for Visual Flight Rules (VFR).
I flew a test of the endurance of the AT-6 aircraft. The goal was 3 hours with 30 minutes of reserve. The aircraft was configured with two .50 Cal machineguns; two Laser guided 500-LB bombs, and one External Fuel Tank (EFT). The total weight of the aircraft at takeoff was 10,000 lbs., the maximum gross weight.
I checked the aircraft FMS (Flight Management System) and weapons management system the day before. On the day of the flight, we were delayed because of traffic in the pattern at BEC, but took off with only a little below the max gross weight. This was the first time I flew such a heavy weight aircraft. It flew well. I planned the mission around BEC from point to point at FL200. We went to Chanute, Emporia, Salina, Hutchinson, Ponca City, then to El Dorado. During the flight, we simulated a 500-LB bomb run. We descended to low altitude for a strafe run and climbed back to altitude for Return to Base (RTB). The point of the flight was to show the endurance of the aircraft. I planned a bingo of 300 pounds for Instrument conditions and 200 pounds for clear skies. At altitude, the weather was clear, but there was a 1000-foot thick ceiling at about 2000 feet. I made an IFR let down into the pattern and stuck around until I had about 200 pounds of fuel. The total flight time was 3 hours and 20 minutes and that is with high fuel burn rates at the end of the mission (you burn more fuel the lower the altitude). It was a great flight and showed many of the aircraft capabilities.