F-14 Tomcat – Behind The Wings Interview With Rich “Spud” Webb

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F-14 Tomcat – Behind The Wings Interview With Rich “Spud” Webb

The above video is an extended interview between Matthew Burchette (the curator of the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum) & former USN F-14 Pilot Richard “Spud” Webb.

They’re discussing everyone’s favourite USN Interceptor – the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, which is on display in the museum.

What’s extra cool is that this particular F-14A was flown by Spud himself!

He walks Matthew all over the plane, talking about the different features, including the famous variable swing wing, the M61A 20mm rotary cannon, the AIM-54 Phoenix Air to Air missile, and what it was like to fly the Tomcat AND also the sheer terror of landing one in a storm with low fuel, etc.

Spud is a great orator, able to talk about his experiences and make you feel like you were really there! You’ll enjoy his stories very much.

This video is a fascinating insight into the magnificent of the Tomcat and the amazing men & women who actual flew her in both peacetime & combat.

To check out info on the Tomcat on the Behind The Wings Museum, click this link.

And if you’d like to make a donation to help the Museum keep doing the amazing work it does, click here to help them out.

Want To Fly The F-14 Tomcat?

Unless you live in Iran and are a military pilot, there’s pretty well NO CHANCE you’ll ever get to fly in an F-14 Tomcat now that the US has destroyed all the boneyarded versions.

HOWEVER, the next best option is to fly in a digital version with Heatblur Simulations F-14 Tomcat for DCS! 🙂

You can check out the DCS/Heatblur Tomcat on the DCS website and also see Heatblur’s YouTube channel here.

Lastly, here’s a sample video of just how amazing the F-14 Tomcat looks in DCS.

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Video Transcript:

[Note: the transcript was produced by a computer, so is NOT 100% accurate. Apologies for that, but over time it will be cleaned up.]

So obviously this is an amazing aircraft. You know what else is amazing? The men and women that flew the F-14. And to that end I have lieutenant rich spud. We’ll get to that later. Webb who is with VF two 11 the checkmates. So how did you get into flying?

So for me it was literally a childhood dream. I still remember the first time a July 4th parade when I was probably maybe eight and I saw an a 15 eagle scream down main street with full after burner as you remember, screaming at the top of my lungs, my mom like did you see the afterburners? And that was like my first, uh, that’s the first memory I have where I identified something that just shook me to my core. And then subsequent airshows and experiences after that led me to taking flight lessons in college. And then that quickly led to working my way through ratings, actually became a flight instructor for a couple years in college. And so I show the students how to fly. And then while that was going on, every now and then the airport would get buzzed by an f 18 or an f 14.

And kind of re stoked that enthusiasm for maybe flying military. But that wasn’t really the path I was on at the time. And then when I got out of college, I decided, you know what, let’s go for broke and applied to the navy. And uh, turns out they accepted me and it was really cool because I first flew the Tomcat when I was 28, but I’d actually had a high school tour of a Tomcat Squadron and climbed all over and sat in a Tomcat at Miramar three years after the movie top gun came out. So I had all the pivotal focal points covered. And so it was a 12 year journey from me for, for me, for the first time I climbed in one from my high school senior tour day to win actually flew on for real as a pretty long short period of time though to fly something that amazing.

There’s tonnes of ground school, there’s tonnes of, you know, there’s officer candidate school, which is Kinda like bootcamp for officers, right. Then you have tonnes of survivals from trains, you have sheer schools, you have ground schools, tonnes of system schools. Then you go to fly t 34 cs at the time for me, which was a single engine trainer. Then from there you get selected whether to go fly helicopters or transports or fighters. And I got selected for fighters. I was one of two people in my class that got selected to Google fly fighters. So then I went into t 45 school, which is a single engine carrier jet trainer, and then qualified in that and then based on the class scores from that syllabus, then got selected for fourteens, went through the 14 syllabus. Then after the finish that f 14 Cylus then deployed with an act of fleet squatter. And then we flew at 14 or I flew 14th for about three years. And then our squadron actually decommissioned to our [inaudible]. They were the oldest fighters, air oldest tomcats in the, uh, in the fleet at the time. And then we to the brand new

f 18 super corners. So I kinda got in my nine years in the, in the navy, I got to fly a lot of different platforms.

so rich, it’s probably been awhile since you’ve been in an f 14 cockpit. September, 2004 so yeah, coming up on 15 years and uh, but that’s what it looks a little bit different. I’m sad to see that this one is aged pretty poorly. Oh, no kidding. You know, in 2006, the, uh, the navy came out and they took everything out of here and I can understand why the platform was sunsetting and the only other country that flies this thing or the Iranians still lethal. Yeah. This is pretty much a skeleton in here. Yeah. It really is kind of bittersweet. What was it like flying this thing? I mean, it’s basically just two giant engines and youtube. Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s the most powerful visceral physical experience ever. Uh, you know, what’s kind of interesting about the Tomcat is there is no, and there was no trainer version, so there wasn’t like a two control right version where an instructor pilot sat in the back with controls to override whatever the student, you know, messed up on.

So your first flight in a tomcat as a pilot was an actual solo essentially. And so after you pass your simulator, checkrides jumped into one of these things and the real, the real kind of heartbeat started to pick up as soon as the canopy came down and click forward about two inches to lock in and everything’s sealed up. And then just got this sense that you are strapped onto the most powerful rocket ride ever, which it was. And then if you look at the top of the canopy bow up here, there’s three mirrors. And there were there, there were literally three pivoting gimbaled rear mirrors and four, you know, actual logistic use. You know, you want to see what’s behind you. Well, the thing is, the Beta for your first couple of flights was because looking back, it was so intimidating to see a gigantic tactical great tennis court back there with two rocket motors.

It’s absolutely huge intimidating. The Beta was when can be comes down and take those rear view mirrors and just face them away. So you, so you’re not, you know, looking back and just just face forward and like take care of business that way is incredibly intimidating to this strap into something so gigantic and massive and powerful. So imagine initially, you know, your first time, you know, strapping in your, your first few hours strapping in, um, you felt like you’re strapping onto it and you felt like wearing it. No, no. It’s like you felt like your, your, you felt like you were climbing into it and you stepping onto it. And then as you got more experienced and as he got more qualifications, then you started to transition to where you strapped into it. You felt like you were putting it on like a jacket and that phase of like kind of straddling it and hanging on for the ride as opposed to now we’re just gonna put it on like a comfortable jacket, snug it in tight and let’s go, you know, let’s go do, and that was, that transition as you got more experience was, was really, really cool to, to feel, I mean it gets to the point where the, the, where as something is massively intimidating and powerful as is.

It’s got to feel like a second skin because the training was just so precise and intense. You know, earlier when we were setting up the shot, you were rattling off the EAP for what? Oh, so yeah, it was the saying that, you know, the EPA is an emergency procedure. We, we kind of call them bold face, which means, you know, two o’clock in the morning, somebody wakes you up out of your bunk and like engine fire go and you’re supposed to just rattle off like, you know, 17 step procedure, four engine fire. And of course I haven’t flown this, you know, the Tom Gotten close to 15 years, but I was just kinda going through as I’m sitting near like procedures are starting to come back and like four out of control flight a what we call OCF recovery. Um, the, let’s see, it was upright 30 units stick for neutral lateral hunters, lock rod or ops attorney off, no recovery indicators to Kinda eternally finish assaults.

So I’ll infection island or force off, light off Notre senator’s message, fire to test on and on and on and on. And it just keeps going. And, and my brain is like pulling back those boldface eps from 15 years ago and I probably go on and on and on. Yeah, yeah. The training was really good, was world-class. So one of the things you just said is strapping it in and go and go into combat. You flown this in combat, you are over Iraq and Afghanistan. Yeah, correct. Yeah. That would’ve been the 2003 slash 2004 conflict timeframe, uh, was based on the USS Enterprise. And we had one squadron of Tomcats, which is VF two 11. And then we had a few squadrons of Effie teens and, and, and some other, uh, carrier aircraft. And yeah, that conflict was a, we showed up for the tail end. Um, if you remember, the first part was kind of marketed as shock and awe.

Right. And then overnight, the Roe, which is the rules of engagement, literally, literally overnight, we went to bed one one night with shotgun doll rules. We woke up the next morning and found out that the rules had switched to win the hearts and minds. So, you know, as which, um, you know, as a warrior, you know, with a, like a, you know, a knife in your teeth out there on the point in ready to do what you’re trained to do was, was a real twist, you know, and, uh, of your mindset. So, um, yeah, that was kind of interesting to navigate. But anyway, so I flew over Africa, uh, Afghanistan and Iraq. And, um, so for me personally on a, you know, on a very personal note, um, I never dropped a bomb an anger. I never fired a bullet and anger. I had no emphatically that, I’ve never killed anybody in the for full circle of my life.

I’m actually completely 100% okay with, because I got, you know, I got to eat my, uh, have my cake and eat it too. I got to fly my dream jet and also not killing anybody in the process, which honestly I think is win-win. Yeah. It’s the best kind of war. Everybody comes back. Exactly. Was, it was great. So when you were on the enterprise, how many traps did you have when you were over there? So I think I finished up with a little over 125 traps total. So what is that like just taking this thing and basically going right onto the deck? Yeah, it’s a so, so the impact is literally that it’s an impact as a controlled crash and uh, but the struggle to make that controlled crash happen with precision and accuracy and exactly within the tolerance as margins that you’re trained to starts, you know, probably in half an hour back prior to the impact.

So yeah, landing, I mean the worst case scenario would be, you know, landing a tomcat on a carrier at night and in low weather, which means the clouds are really low and with a high sea state, which means the carriers bucking around with low fuel. So all of those, you had those up and, and it’s just absolutely stressful. Its mind. It’s, yeah, just mind bending. So it’s, it’s purely the most physically, mentally, emotionally hardest thing I’ve ever done in life. You know, I call flying to Tomcat is the hardest job I’ve ever had and I hope I never have to work that hard, you know, ever in my life. And it really is that, um, it’s kind of like, you know, I’ve heard it described one time as like the culmination of like a high level executive making corporate level, you know, high move decisions with Olympic athlete, you know, Athletic Skills with Ninja Samurai warrior acumen, you know, kind of all going into one and that sounds kind of um, bombastic maybe, but it’s incredibly accurate.

You know, at the time when you’re there performing, it’s, that’s incredibly accurate. I read a great, uh, little blurb in a book in the Reo, always noticed that once they got back on the deck and the canopy popped, he would get out and he would stand on the back of the plane and he would wait for his pilot and he would wait and he would wait. And then finally the guy would get out after about four or five times with this, he asked him, why all, why are you waiting for waiting for his niece to stuffing go? That was it. Yeah. So, you know, honestly, you know, a lot of people think that combat, uh, is the, is the high stress point of carrier aviation. And it’s absolutely not carrier aviation, that the highest risk point is the last 30 seconds of final approach to landing on the carrier.

So you know, if you back it up, let’s just start with the ship that is in heavy seas. So it’s pitching, it’s rolling in, it’s heaving. So it’s pitch Rohit, it’s just going all over the place. So the deck is not stable at all. And then on top of that, the carrier is moving through the water at say 30 knots. So now your runway is moving away from you while it’s pitching, rolling and healing. And then on top of that, the La, which is the landing area is, is splayed off 11 degrees from centre line from the ship. So you’re landing on an angled runway. I had never thought of it that that’s moving away from you at the same time as pitching ruling heaving. So that’s just the carrier mechanics. So that’s your target that’s moving. Then you break down the La, which is the landing area into target touchdown point.

And the enterprise had four wires. I think the new carriers now have three wires. The spacing between each of the wires, I believe is about 40 feet and we’re trying to target a specific gap. We had three gaps between the, if you have four wires, there’s three gaps in between. We trying to target the middle gap, so there’s a middle 40 foot section of a thousand foot carrier that we’re trying to put the tail hook. Now the tail hook is at the back of about a 70 foot jet. It’s also I believe about, I think we had something like 21 foot clearance from Ida hook tip just based on our angle of attack coming in. So I, if I remember correctly, our tail Hook was about 21 feet below where my eyes were and I’m trying to put on a 40 foot section of carrier deck while the deck is now pitch roll heaving moving sideways and away from me.

Then on top of that you throw in low weather. Okay, so you can’t even see the carrier until maybe last few hundred feet, you know, vertically and then you throw on top of that hole. The fact that you have low fuel because you never come back with full fuel. You’ve used all your fuel for the mission, right. And you’ve hit the, the inflight refuelling tanker, you know, four or five times throughout a normal mission. Sometimes I think one mission over Afghanistan, I think it was three tanks in and three tanks back out to the carrier. Yeah. So you’re hitting the carrier six or seven times and so you’re throwing a d, you know, diminishing fuel state. You know, we call it fuel state or fuel level on top of all of this. And then there’s no autopilot, cause you have 14 was designed in the 60s built in the 70s deployed in the mid two thousands so you’re hand flying everything.

There’s no, not like I’ll just let the auto carrier load. It was like, no, you know the fets have that, but Tomcat didn’t. So you throw all that in and that’s all the stress on past one and a pass is what we call an approach to the deck that’s all stacked on you for kept past one. Keep in mind, you’ve probably just done a six hour mission, so you’re fatigued. You’re also laying at four o’clock in the morning, so your circadian rhythm is as low as point you’re, you’re already so, so brain melted. You’ve got to do the hardest part of the mission at four o’clock morning when you’re, when you’re the most tired. So that’s your first passage with all that. And now here’s what happens is there are a lot of things out of your control. There’s some things in your control and some things out of control.

One, you could just have a bad past and kind of over control that may be too fast your year or your angle of tax not correct and you’re not flying a perfect approach and you induce a bolter yourself. Bolter is when you touch down, but your hook doesn’t catch one of the wires and you add full power automatically and go around for another pass. Or You could fly a perfect pass and have your tail hook skip over the wires, which happens. There’s hydraulic pressure to try and prevent that, but sometimes you actually get a perfect pass. Like there you were, it was actually a perfectly great pass, but your hook skipped over everything and you miss. So thing is now you have to come back and try it again. And every time you’re doing that you’re coming back on another approach with less fuel fuel, you’re now mentally taxed even more.

You’re, you’re using finite mental and physical batteries and now you’ve got to try do better than your last approach with less reserves, mentally, physically, and fuel. So you just get to the point where leaning on the carry, oh by the way, you’re holding up everybody else’s. Well, you know, that’s the thing. Exactly. So you’ve got people behind you and if you bolter now you’ve got to cut in the line and come back around because now you’ve got less fuel. So, and then you get the point where, you know, if you have a night in the barrel where you know, if, if everything goes great, you nailed three wire first time you’re like, no problem. You Act like you’re supposed to do it. Act like you know what you’re doing is fine. All good. Right? But you know, every now and then, and I had had mind you had a night in a barrel, where’s three or four attempts to try and get a board and every single pass you’re making that last five minutes of flying is so precise and you’re trying to outdo what you just did.

That didn’t work. Because obviously if you’re still flying, what you just did didn’t work. So now on your next pass you’re trying to exceed. The last approach is performance with less batteries and less fuel. You know when I say batteries, I mean mental and physical because you’re just getting, there’s, there’s no time to like pull over and take a rest. There’s no pull over, right? Yeah, we’re going to go. Exactly. So and you can’t pull over cause you run out of fuel and then you get to the point where if you have three looks at the boat, what we call three looks at the back of the boat and you’re and you haven’t trapped, then you’re low on fuel and you have to go find the tankers and I have to climb back up into the clouds, get your radar out, find the tanker, join upon the tanker and now you’re flying formation, a tanker trying to joust with the inflight refuelling probe that comes out your right side here.

Try and get it into a basket. Again, this is at four o’clock in the morning, you’re already tired and you’re trying to fly formation at night on a tanker trying to get in the basket. Of course the basket will always whipping around cause the tank or flight, you know, finds the most turbulent weather. So they’re really helping you out and it just gets, it just piles on and piles and piles on you. Then you finally slam into the tank of, you’re getting guests like, thank God he kind of take a break while you’re flying in formation and you’re watching your fuel come back up. I okay. And you get enough fuel for two more passes. You can come out of the tanker and you retract your fuel probe and come back around. Now you’ve gotta find the carrier gun carriers back down underneath the clouds and now you’ve got to go shoot another approach and you’re so fatigued at this point and you still have to dig deep and fly a better approach than anything you’ve done so far in the last, you know, half hour to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, the AirBoss is getting really pissed at you because you’re kind of holding things up. You know, the carriers kind of held hostage until, oh Cary, you know, all aircraft are on deck so you know the spotlight’s on you and they’ve got that pressure. So it just keeps compiling and compounding and just adding, adding, adding. And when you do get on deck, that’s when you sit in there and you just go for about five minutes waiting for your knees to stop shaking and exhausted right now. Yeah, just listen to all I know. It’s amazing. Yet it’s really cool to, to, you know, sitting in this cockpit brings it all back and go to bed. So this guy probably looks pretty familiar to some of our viewers. It’s an in 61 [inaudible] Vulcan 20 millimetre rotary Canon, and it’s the cannon that came out of this bad boy. And you shot this thing? Yeah. Was a beast.

Oh yes. Bet. It’s a pretty powerful experience. The, I mean this is, or shooting 6,000 rounds a minute out of this and we’re shooting 1220 millimetres. So you know, almost one inch diameter rounds coming out of this at 6,000 rounds a minute, which I think is a hundred rounds a second, something like that. My math is not there. Right. So a hundred rounds a second. That’s pretty good. We carried 600 rounds. So if we’re firing a hundred rounds per second, that means we’re out of bullets in six seconds. So one of the ways that we kind of, uh, rationed those 600 rounds, we do 50 round bursts. What we do is we, we load up the drum every 50 rounds, we put a space and then our 50 rounds put a space. And then when we went down for a full trigger squeeze, instead of having to kind of guess at what 50 rounds would be like a half second burst, we just go trigger down, hold it, fire 50 rounds and stop when it hit that that built in space at 50 rounds.

And then that way we knew we had 12 trigger squeezes at 50 rounds. That’s really for a whole drama of rounds. So yeah, it is, it’s a pretty big beast. You know, one of the things that was kind of the physical experience of firing this gun is just the position in the Tomcat itself. You know, the rounds are coming out right here. Yeah, they’re coming out of the muzzle right here. However, the body of the gun actually comes all the way. The back here, like this is actually one of the panels where you would access the bullet drum. Well if you look at where the seed is, it’s directly over that and you’re literally sitting vertically on top of this gigantic big old hydraulically powered gun. So it’s a pretty visceral experience when you’re, when you’re doing trigger squeezes on this. So, um, yeah, and you’d be putting out 50 rounds every half second and to predict that was kind of a kick in the pants.

So one of the kinds of things is, you know, some of the kind of details behind this, you’re collecting all your own brass back into the drum. You’re not ejecting any brass out because that could go down the intake and chew up your motors. And then there are some times there are supersonic restrictions as well. You know, cause if you’re firing the gun at too fast as the speed and the bullets come out and you’re going too fast, the bullets decelerate due to the supersonic air start tumbling. And then you run into your own bullets. The Tomcat didn’t have any issue with that. They engineered around it. However, back in the early days when they were actually pushing this envelope forward, some jets actually shot themselves down by running into their own bullets that they actually find out their own gun. That’s gotta be an interesting little bit of history into what

you know, what we’re looking at. So the f 14 can carry in an immense amount of payload from the market 80 series to the GBU use. Um, the aim nine, the aim seven, but what it was really known for is the AME 54 Phoenix.

Yeah. That was the, the homework weapon for the [inaudible] platform. And the aim 54 was designed at the same time with the online radar to be paired together as, as a weapons unit. And then the Tomcat was actually designed around the aim 54 in the og nine to actually fly and employed. So the weapon came

first, the radar to run the weapon, and then the Tomcat actually fly the weapon. And the Phoenix is, it was unprecedented at the time the Tomcat was capable because the Organon radar was so powerful and had amazing radar. Motor agility is capable of locking up six targets on its own. One time cat could lock up six targets, fire six Phoenix simultaneously and all six targets defend, shoot ’em all down, turn around, go back home for more. So at the time that was unprecedented and remember this was designed in the Cold War era. We were looking to beat back the Russian bombers coming over the horizon and that was what the Tomcat system was designed for. While we continued employing that all the way into the mid two thousands we kept upgrading and adding on more and more features. So we started adding on a lot more air to ground.

We’d started turning into, you know, Tomcat turned into the bomb cat where we could drop dumb bombs, the Marc 80 series, the 80 two’s in the 80 fours and then we retrofitted it with the Air Force Lantern Pot on the web, on the wing pylon rail there and we could then drop laser guided weapons. The GB twelves in the 60s and all the way up to some other stuff. We even could carry a reconnaissance pod for doing self-contained for concepts with a tarp spot. We just kept adding more and more and more, but the Phoenix was the weapon system that the Tomcat was originally designed around and that’s the one that the top gets. No good rich

standing on the right wing of this guy and I think it’s probably an over sweet mode, which is what it was when you guys were on the carrier to or on the hangar deck to maximise space. But the thing that just I have always been enthralled about and completely wrong is that I thought you guys controlled this sweep of the wing, but it was all controlled by what was known as the c a d c which was the central Air DataCAD a computer. Thank you. How did that work and what was it doing? Well, the the cat seat or the central Ed air data computer was just a magic box that that controlled the wing sweep based on angle of attack and mock number. But we had a bunch of different modes. The catsi ran the, what we call the auto mode, so auto wing sweep.

All that meant was the computer was running things. When you are flying slow, the wings would extend out to two 20 degrees. So if we have this model here, yeah we see for takeoff and landing, the wings will be extended out to two 20 degree wing sweep and the computer, we’ve running this automatically in auto mode and then as your mock number increased, the wingsuit would automatically schedule aft two and a half to one sweep in flight of 68 degrees and that will be about mach 0.7 the wings will be pinned back automatically at 68 degrees and then the computer just dictated where the wings would be between 20 and 68 in between in flight based on mock number. So there literally was no, it wasn’t either here or here. It could be anywhere in between. It was true variable performance rated geometry and now had a few different modes.

Now a computer ran this in auto mode, but then we also had a thumb mounted switch on the right throttle. We could manually select anything in between 20 and 68 while we’re flying. And some of the cool tricks we could do was, because a lot of people knew that if your wings were pinned back at 68 you’re hauling ass above [inaudible] seven however, some people would deceptively use as in emerge for dog fighting, especially in training environment where you come into emerge slow with your wings manually pinned back at 68 degrees to try and trick the other guy into thinking you were fast. What would happen if he came into the merge with your wings? Ping back into your slow. As soon as the merge happened, you’d manually retract them back to 20 cause you were slow and he turned in really fast as opposed to if you’re a muck 0.7 plus going back and you just have to be gone.

Exactly. You have gigantic date of kind of turn. Exactly. So the wing sweep was both manual and auto and then there was an override on top of that because there’s always failed backups for backups for backups. So we also had a manual lever. Override was a big old lift with kind of came out. You’d click it down as well, which was a emergency mode. And then what you were mentioning about before as we see the configuration of Tomcat here in the, in the museum to reduce the hanger footprint on the carrier because hanger deck space is such a premium, you could actually go into Overstreet mode where the wingtips would actually go over. This model doesn’t quite do it, but we can see right here the wing tip of your Tomcat is actually extended over the stable laters. And so you can see there’d be a little bit of confliction where we’ve locked off the stabilisers right now because the wingtips is over it.

So this would be the hanger deck configuration that you’d see on an actual aircraft carrier. Pretty impressive. And the wings, the variable wing sweep geometry was just absolutely unprecedented at the time. No. Yeah, big time. I mean, this was groundbreaking technology, and to think that they developed the, the processors and the, the software for this in about two years, while also not only that, at the pivot of this wing pivot structure is a gigantic, big old wing box of as essentially a solid chunk of titanium. So, you know, it was described to us that, you know, if this thing flew into a mountain at mach two, you’d have two engine cores and a perfectly unscratched titanium wing box. And the records, not yet because the, the inner titanium wingbox is just so incredibly massive and unprecedented for its time. So when you’re hauling along and the, in the computers doing its thing, do you notice that the wings are moving?

Oh, absolutely. Oh yeah. You’ll feel, because this is an analogue jet, right? It was designed in the 60s built in the 70s. There’s not really much computing power going on. This is effectively a stick and rudder aircraft, even though we have a computer, I mean, it’s a computer with vacuum tubes running. Right? Right. So you would feel a lot, you’d feel clunking because the hydraulic system was very, uh, it was a very low resolution, so it was kind of pulse with, with a hydraulic input. So you would feel the wings kind of clunk back a little bit. You’d feel them clunk back and you feel them clunk foreign course, then you’d automatically have pitch changes as well. You have to compensate for, part of that was automatic. Part of it was manual. You’d need to trim in there a little bit. And then of course as the wings come after your role, sensitivity increases, right? So as you’re more like rolling a pencil as opposed to rolling a fabric right now. Okay. So the faster you go you’re pushing market won’t come back. Now your roll rate is really, really sensitive and it’s kind of like trying to keep a pencil from rolling on the table. Really, really twitchy. And as the wings come back, you actually stop using your ailerons and your spoilers for role control and you actually exclusively use your stable laters. These horizontal stabilisers for row control. So high speed roll control is only with the stabilisers. Wow.


We’re looking at here is the business end of the Pratt & Whitney TF-30 engine. So we had two of these nine feet apart on centre line. And can you just imagine a cylinder

awaiting this big 30 feet up? That would be two of them

and being on the business end and then, you know, being on the pointy end of that, it was quite a ride. Oh, I’m bad. So it was pretty spectacular. The, the, the fuel consumption on these things was just off the charts. So we carry 20,000 pounds of fuel on board. If we had external fuel tanks and we could burn through that 20,000 pounds of fuel in eight minutes if we stayed in zone five after burner. So if you do the math, like 20,000 pounds in eight minutes, you’d be three states away. You know, that’s a given at the end of that eight minutes. But I think it’s a ridiculous fuel consumption, 3000 gallons of fuel in eight minutes. Wow. Yeah. So you had a lot of power at your fingertips. It is absolutely phenomenal. So crazy. And these were the small motors, so the 14 B and the d, they used a GE variant of motor with I think something like 20 or 25% more thrust, which is pretty cool when I got to fly the beam model as well, which is, which is really fun.

So the TF thirties which were built by Pratt and Whitney, when the aim model were notorious for what’s called compressor stalls. Basically it was when if you had a little bit too much sight slip combined with a little bit too much angle of attack combined with a little bit too rough movement on the throttles, which meant practically any movement on the tiles, you could, you could get what’s called a compressor stalls and basically it would be kind of like a backfire of an engine. Well, with a jet engine that’s kind of bad. So it start to overheat and what you, the way to work around that is you just shut the engine off for maybe anywhere from five to 20 seconds. Let it cool down and restart it. We got to the point where we could do that in the middle of a practise dog fight and still keep fighting. We’d have a shit engine shutdown back on and continue fight. Keep going. Oh kidding. Barely even call it, knock it off. Yeah. We got that sort of comfortable with just compressor stalls over temping us. So the being, the de answered that, that flaw with the GE motor, which was almost completely impossible to stall. So the a was a little, it was temperamental too, to keep things running correctly.

Um, required a little bit of finesse and a lot more awareness for sure. You couldn’t just what we and monkey saw it, the throttles. So

you are sitting on, I love your, you’re awesome language here. So when you’re sitting on the deck and you’re, you’re on the cat and you’re ready to hit it and you’re in, what do you call it? Stage size. Yep. Zone five. After zone five after burner. What does that do to you? I mean it’s because you’re holding back that amount of things.

Yeah. So you’re holding back 50,000 pounds of afterburner through thrust via the, the, the capital shuttle. It’s, I’ve never been, you know, on the, on the the front of a rocket. But essentially that, that moment when the hold down clamps or holding down a rocket, but the rockets

firing it, 100% thrust and then the whole down clamps release the rocket goes. That’s what it feels like. That’s what I can imagine. It feels like to be on the front end of this when the, when the catapult shuttles holding you bolted to the catapult and you’ve got zone five going and everything wants to go that way and the carrier stopping you from going and all of a sudden the carrier, the catapult shuttle fires off and you’re gone. You’re on the front of $1 million ride him on multimillion dollar ride. So, and you just feel it every, yeah. So it’s about a four g slap in the back. So it’s four times your body weight getting hit. You’re taking a back slap basically four times your body weight for about 200 feet. Cause the catapult track is about 200 feet. And so you go from zero to a hundred knots, which is about 115 miles an hour and about 200 feet, which is pretty impressive.

And you’re taking that all via back slap, just one continuous, 200 foot long backslab. And then at the end the catapult shuttle releases and you go firing off the front end. The first thing you’re checking, actually this is where the real comes in. They’re checking, see triple digits. So the reel is all he’s looking at the airspeed. And of course we were all on analogue gauges. This an analogue jet. So we’re looking at steam gauges and he’s just looking for triple digits on the air speed. What do I mean by that is like a hundred or over. If he sees double digits, that’s too slow to keep flying. Automatic eject. And if he’s triple digits or more, continue flying and you’ve got 60 feet to kind of scoop down and get flying again. So retract the gear flaps and get going. So things are busy. So imagine that with a pitching deck, getting shot off a pitching deck and then in the middle of the night into do a black sky into a middle of a black bowling ball getting shot off. Now here’s the thing. When the deck is pitching and your timing catapult shots is pretty cool because you’ve got the, the pitching period of 1000 foot long carrier is pretty slow. So it’s kind of about a, maybe a two second cadence where two seconds up and then pause and two seconds down. And that’s about the pitch period of a carrier. And what happens is because it takes about two seconds to go down the track, they don’t want you firing off down, they want to firing off up. So they actually fire you, they release

the shuttle on the, on the catapult when you’re pointed down. So the two seconds later you’re going up. So it’s absolutely physiologically the most messed up thing. You Bet. It’s

just your, your, your gyros are tumbled, tumbled inside your head. You’re absolutely just

discombobulate. You’re hanging onto the front end of of rocket and you’re getting shot downhill, downhill into a black hole, hopefully that at the end of that two second ride, you’re pointing up and you fly away. Yeah. So you’re, and that’s the start of it. And then like I said, you end it with that, that spicy carrier landing at the end. It’s just, it’s the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. So these guys are kicking out what close to 50,000 thousand rust. That’s got to translate into really, really fast speed. Yeah. So we, we translate that into factors of speed of sound called mock. So Tomcat is rated for mock 2.4 which is 2.4 times the speed of sound, which I think it owls tude works out to over 1500 miles an hour, which is pretty impressive. So you can do a lot of good work with that speed.

Wow. So acceleration is impressive. It goes from breaks release zero to supersonic in about 30 to 40 seconds, I believe, which is pretty good. The Super Hornet does way better than that. It’s pretty cool. It’s a dragster. Wow. Yeah, but mach 2.4 you can get some places for sure. That’s amazing. Flying of that speed is really, really twitchy too. So the faster you’re going, it’s just really, really, really centred. Like you were talking about earlier, barely touching the sticker. Your wings are all the way back, so your roll rate is getting really. Yeah. And then the fast you’re going, the control surfaces are just so much more sensitive. Oof. Yeah, so it’s actually fairly challenging to fly it mock too. Rich, thank you so much Leslie, that been so much fun. As a pleasure to see here. Thank you very much. You’ve been nodding. Thank you so much and thank you guys and gals for watching because you are what makes behind the wings. If you’ve got questions or comments, Facebook, youtube, but we’ll get to when we can. And if you haven’t gotten enough of the f 14 which, how could you rich tell us where we can learn more? Well, one of my favourite pieces that that is currently out there that can be streamed from all the major suppliers is a film called Speed and Angels. And it’s a documentary with unprecedented qualities that follows two of my friends who actually fluid with all my instructors, highly recommend I know what I’m doing. Later.

4 Responses

  1. Patrick Insignares says:

    Absolutely impressive! I love aviation! Thanks for sharing. One day I will become a Private Pilot. I have flown in a F16-C many years ago (incentive ride). It was a two hour ride over the dry tortugas in Florida. At that time (1989) I was being released from the Air Force to the Army as a helicopter pilot, however that never happened because I had just turned 30 years old and the cut-off was 29 years old…no waivers. So I remained in the Air Force (Medical Systems Analyst) until I retired in 2001.

    • Eran Malloch says:

      Hi Patrick. Great to chat with you via email & thanks for your comment on here. An incentive ride in an F-16 would have been awesome! 🙂 Sorry you didn’t get to fly with the Airforce (or Army) as a career but at least you got to be around those wonderful planes & helos.

  2. Kelly webb says:

    This was a great interview coming from a very proud sister. Lt Spud Webb

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