Thrill of a Lifetime (continued, page 3)
by Jack Lythgoe

Cockpit of the L-39 Albatros
Cockpit of the L-39 Albatros.
Photo: Personal collection of Jack Lythgoe.

From the front cockpit, a comment, "Goot, goot, goot!" At 225 kph, a bit more back pressure and we effortlessly leaped into the air with another "Goot, goot, goot" from the front.  Wow, was I ever something? Got this thing up in the air lickety-split with no problems at all.

As we were climbing I received my first of two "Nyet's!" of the flight.  Serge didn't say that he wanted control, but I felt his heavy back pressure on the stick and the angle of attack increased considerably and we started to go up as a Ukraine fighter pilot would instead of a pansy American pilot.  Felt a little diminished, but what the heck, I was in no hurry to getup there, as I was much too busy simply enjoying the sensation and thrill of flying a jet at last.

I climbed to altitude and then wondered if I should ask permission to start my profile, then remembered that he could not understand me if I did ask.  I started into my first maneuver, a 360 degree turn to the left.  I had hardly begun the turn when I got my second and last "Nyet!" This time however, he said, "My control!" so I removed my hands and feet from the the controls and sat, waiting to see what I had done wrong.

Taxiing the L-39 Albatros
Taxiing the L-39 Albatros.
Photo: Personal collection of Jack Lythgoe.

About half a second later I found out.  The plane lurched into a very hard turn to the left with our wings at a 90 degree angle to earth.  I was thrust down into the seat, while my head bobbed about like a newborn baby, having failed to get my helmet back into the pocket of the headrest.  (I had explained to Col. Orsos prior to the flight that I would like to just fly the plane for a while to get the feel of the controls before attempting any acrobatics.  He suggested to just start out with a couple of 360 degree turns into my flight plans.  He had evidently not mentioned this to Serge, though, as we pulled over five G's on the turn.)

When we were back on our easterly heading again, Serge said, "Your control," so I slipped my feet into the stirrups and took over once again.  If he wanted a hard turn, I'd give him a hard turn.  I stood the plane on its left side and did a 360 every bit as hard and fast as he did, once again pulling over five G's.  "Goot, goot, goot!" Then the same thing to the right with the same response.

An Immelmann
An Immelmann (also known as a roll-off-the-top): an ascending half-loop followed by a half-roll, resulting in level flight in the exact opposite direction at a higher altitude.
Photo: An illustration.

The next item was a roll and I was hesitant as it involves much more coordination in a piston engine plane than it does in a jet, and I did not want to "over control."  I rolled right and in just a little over a second we were back to straight and! Another to the right and then a double in each direction.  Hell, I must be about the best aerobatic pilot there ever was!

In a jet, every maneuver is so much easier than in a piston engine plane.  Split S's, Immelmans, loops, rolls and then a spot where the safety pilot did a tail slide for me.  It was something I have never done.  You go straight up, backing off on your throttle until you come to a stop.  Then the plane free falls and speed increases as you add throttle and pick up control once again.  Spectacular!

Now it was my turn.  I did two of them.  You are totally weightless for about five or six seconds as your plane drops to pick up speed.  I had finished flying my profile and glanced at my watch to see how much of my 45 minutes I had left--about eight to 10 minutes.

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