|Thrill of a Lifetime (continued, page 6)
by Jack Lythgoe
I looked in the mirror and saw objects on the ground diminishing behind us. I honestly don't know what the G-force was, as I could not find the G-meter in a hurry. It was on the other side of the instrument panel from the location on the L-39. I tried to lift my hand from my lap and it was all I could do to raise it--a lot more G's and much longer than a carrier catapult.
I looked directly up, and "up" was "down." We'd rolled out of the climb inverted, cut the burners, then rolled out to straight and level flight when I got the message, "Chock, your control."
Here we go again. I had eliminated the need for the "getting used to the feel" turns, as they had not worked out that great for me on the first flight, so I started right into my profile with a split S, a few rolls, a steep climb with a roll on the way up, a 180-degree turn and dive, straight and level, a loop, another loop into a split S and an Immelmann back up to altitude.
Then I was ready for his demonstration of a tail slide in a MiG-29, which I was told was much more impressive than it was in the L-39. Wow...weightless for seven to nine seconds for this one...it was impressive!
Then it was my turn. I did two of them, the first a touch wobbly, but the second not too bad at all. Then on with the rest of my profile, which once again finished a little early — about twelve minutes this time. I thought I would like to try another tail slide or two, but guess what? "Chock, Loopa," from the front seat. Oh, hell, here we go again, I thought.
As we did this time for nine consecutive loopas! I have never gotten airsick, but with my restricted breathing and slight light-headedness from some of the rather heavy G's we pulled in some of our maneuvers, I started to feel like I might make an exception to the rule this time around if I did not knock off on the loopas. My stomach was down around my ankles.
When I got another "Repeata," after the ninth loop, I responded with "Nyet," and rolled into a split S, which, by comparison, is a bit relaxing. As we came diving out of the bottom half, another suggestion came from the front seat: "Invert!"
So I did, and that is where I was at the start of this missive. Upside down, but quite relaxed because it is much easier than handling the heavy Gs on a 70-year-old, out-of-shape body. I think Serge 2 was trying to make me sick and thought the inverted flight would do it. I was very comfortable for the first time since we started loopa three or four.
I did remember something in the L-39 manual about not being able to fly inverted for more than 15 seconds or it would flame out. Was Serge 2 testing me, or just waiting to see how long I could keep the plane straight and level in inverted mode...or simply trying to make me sick? It was the latter, I thought, so I would hang in there as long as he wanted to.
We flew inverted for close to a full minute, which doesn't sound like very long, but I can guarantee it feels like a long time when you're flying at that speed. And I was not accustomed to holding a straight and level flight attitude while inverted. But in a jet, it really didn't seem all that difficult after the first adjustment or two.
"Roll out, Chock!" I should have just rolled out with half a roll, but instead (to emphasize the fact that inverted flight had relaxed me a bit) I did two and a half to the right and then the hardest right turn I could handle back toward the field. I picked up the first bit of humor from Serge 2 when he told me, "Goot, go home, Chock." Once again I throttled back a bit and started a descent to pattern altitude.