Don't touch it until I say "Now"

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Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#1 Post by boing » Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:47 pm

Another story, does this man never know when to shut up !!!

At some time during your career as a Vulcan co-pilot you may have been invited to take part in an ICC which I believe stood for Intermediate Captain's Course but I am not sure about that, it was just ICC. My invitation was presented in '71 I think. It's in my logbook.

Traditionally the Captain flies from the left seat of the aircraft, the Co-pilot from the right seat. The plan of the ICC was that you would fly with an instructor and be checked out in the left seat of the aircraft which, of course, is the Captain's seat, henceforth, with a properly authorised real Captain you could fly the aircraft on a regular sortie from the left seat. This almost never happened because there were very few right hand seat qualified Captains. No doubt as part of this course you were assessed to determine your suitability for a Captain's seat on your next tour.

When I carried out my ICC I was extremely fortunate to get Squadron Leader Joe L'Estrange as my instructor. Joe was widely acknowledged to be the most experienced Vulcan instructor in the RAF. He had apparently been flying Vulcans since they were introduced and he had a long list of other types he had flown such as the Meteor, Vampire and Mosquito. I liked Joe a lot, he was a total hoot to fly with and a marvellous instructor of the "I'll let you get yourself into trouble and then I will show you how to get out of it" type. I think he talked to the aircraft like some people are supposed to be able to whisper to horses.

Since the ICC was supposed to cover all Captain duties they were flown as regular sorties but with a little more time than usual being used for handling exercises.

Towards the end of one of my ICC flights we entered the circuit only to be told that the runway had just been blocked by a Lightning with a blown tyre. It would take about 15 minutes to clear the runway. We made a low pass to see what was going on and, sure enough, there was a Lightning parked at just about the centre of the 9000 foot runway. The aircraft was on the runway centreline but it was at an angle to this. Air Traffic told us we were the only aircraft in the pattern so we could tootle off to the location we preferred and wait.

After the estimated 15 minutes we were informed that the situation was worse than expected,. The Lightning's burst tyre was caused by a seized brake which would have to be removed, another 20 minutes or so.

When we arrived in the circuit we had enough fuel for quite a number of approaches but we were beginning to use this fuel up so we started watching the gauges. Unfortunately, due to unusual local circumstances we were committed to landing at this airfield. I noticed that Joe did not seem particularly concerned about anything.

Now we need to digress to a lecture on the Vulcan fuel system because this becomes relevant. The Vulcan had 14 fuel tanks, 7 on either side of the aircraft centreline. The #1 tanks were in the fuselage to the rear of the cockpit, the other tanks were in the wings. Each tank had its own fuel pump and a push-button that bought up a quite accurate fuel quantity indication on a left or right gauge. You could see the fuel in any individual tank by simply pushing its button so the pilots had a pretty good indication of fuel on board. Unfortunately the rear crew members only had a total fuel quantity gauge which hovered around zero when the fuel was getting a little low making them pretty nervous. The low fuel procedure was to burn off the fuel in all of the tanks from #2 to #6 and keep as much fuel as possible in tanks #1 and #7. You could not move fuel out of tanks #2 to #6 you could only burn it out but tanks #1 and #7 were special because they were connected together by fuel lines and a couple of high capacity fuel pumps. Moving fuel between tanks #1 and #7 was used to adjust the CofG of the aircraft because, as we all know, it had no tailplane. This was, in fact, the same concept as used by Concord to adjust its CofG except I believe the Concord system was automatic. I saw Joe start to burn off the wing tank fuel.

The fuel quantity was beginning to become a concern when the final shoe fell. ATC called to report that other problems had been found with the Lightning, apparently the wheel axle was seized somehow and a repair could not be completed on the runway, the aircraft would have to be towed clear. A tug and lifting device were on the way but they could only travel at about 3mph so it was going to be 20 minutes before the lifting device would arrive and some time after that before the runway was clear. I was intrigued to note that Joe was still completely unfazed. We were now down to fuel in the #1 tanks only, perhaps enough for another 3 or 4 visual patterns, certainly not enough for another 20 minute plus delay.

I was working the radio as Joe flew. "Tell them that we are landing off our next approach and that they should get all personnel off the runway.". I passed this message on and got a simple "Roger, understood". ATC knew what the game was. I could imagine an arm reaching for the crash button, the fire engines would be rolling shortly.

Now Joe turned to me "We will be a little slower than normal on the final approach, don't worry about it, it's OK. I will be flaring at what will seem to be a little bit in the undershoot, don't worry about it. it's OK. I will put the aircraft on the ground as soon as possible and then go for maximum braking, don't worry about it, at this light weight it is OK. Now, here is where I need your help." Great I thought, otherwise I was just going to be a nervous passenger. "Put your hand near the brake chute switch on short final but don't touch it until I say "Now" then do not hesitate. As soon as I say now stream the chute, we will still be in the air but don't worry about it, it's OK." Nice to see I did not have much to do but I hoped Joe would get his timing right because when that chute deployed we were going to drop out of the air like a brick. If he called for the chute too early we would drop into the undershoot, probably break the landing gear legs off on the lip at the end of the runway and cartwheel down the runway on fire as a finale.

Finals turn, three green lights, low and a little slow on finals as briefed, rather flat approach, unusually high power setting. Threshold coming up, NOW, I moved the switch. It takes the parachute a time to deploy and just as the wheels touched the ground we felt the chute bite. Brakes on. We probably could have stopped in 3500 feet. Joe moved over to the edge of the runway and we dumped the chute. We rolled down the runway a little to take a look at the Lightning and then we made a 180 on the runway to return to our dispersal. No body said a word, nothing from the rear crew nothing from ATC. I looked over at Joe and said "Nice job", he had dropped his mask so I could see his grin. He said "Don't try that yourself until we have practiced it a couple of times."

I like to think that Joe added this sequence to his flying display because of this experience, see around 7:51 on this video. At this display he does flare a little further down the runway than we did, on the other hand there is no Lightning parked ahead of him this time.



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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#2 Post by Capetonian » Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:55 pm

Fabulous. That touch and go at 3'30" - 3'50" is aviation porn!
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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#3 Post by boing » Sun Oct 20, 2019 5:00 pm

Yes Cape,
As you can see the rear wheels trailed on the bogie. When you got the feel for it you could trail the rear wheels onto the runway and then gently allow the aircraft to settle on the gear legs and the front set of wheels. A big help for this was the enormous amount of air trapped under the body when the nose was in the air, almost like a big cushion.

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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#4 Post by CharlieOneSix » Sun Oct 20, 2019 5:34 pm

Great story, well told - superb!
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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#5 Post by TheGreenGoblin » Sun Oct 20, 2019 5:51 pm

CharlieOneSix wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 5:34 pm
Great story, well told - superb!
+1

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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#6 Post by Boac » Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:48 pm

Yes, Joe was one of a few.

I will tell a Lightning brake chute story. I had an instructor at the OCU called Gary Catren - a USAF exchange who was simply delightful to be taught by.

After I decamped to my squadron, Gary was training a guy called George Smith, know for his attachment to alcohol and probably flew better for it, but a great operator (in both spheres....). He later came to my squadron, 23F, and I had to take him off the programme a few times to go and 'rest'........ :)) He managed to land short at Luqa and demolished the back end (including chute) on a stone wall. Squadron rumour had it he was stone cold sober at the time which caused the accident =)) George died in somewhat 'odd' circumstances in the Canaries while with the Rothmans at the end of a display.

Anyway, back to Gary and George. Gary was doing George's first demo reheat take-off in the T5. A word of 'tech' here - the Lighting lit reheat by fully opening the nozzles before the shot of raw Avtur went down the pipe to light the reheat. Once lit, the nozzles close a bit and if the shot 'fails' the nozzles should close back to full cold - a fully open nozzle was about 40% down on full cold thrust (hence the 'lurch' as reheat was lit).

OK - thundering down the runway they go, but No 1 (lower) fails to light - but the nozzle stays open......... There was a dramatic nose-down trim force. Gary could not get the nose off at normal speed, so being Gary went for Bernouillis to assist. Soon they had the world tricyicle land speed record (NB runway at Coltishall had not been issued for this).

"SH!T" quoth Gary, with a tinge of US accent. At this point George awoke, and hearing '"Chute", promptly pulled the chute release, which duly deployed into the full reheat flame from motor 2 and made like a flapping piece of molten nylon on the end of a wire. At this point, ATC raised the R22 barrier which George and Gary then removed from its mountings and dragged the whole assembly some distance across the grass down toward the railway line.

13 months later I was back as an OCU instructor and airtested the aircraft after somewhat expensive re-working!

Miss them both!

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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#7 Post by ian16th » Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:17 pm

boing wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:47 pm
This was, in fact, the same concept as used by Concord to adjust its CofG except I believe the Concord system was automatic.
A nice sandbag tale. :-bd

Not quite 'automatic', but computerised!

I installed the system at Filton that worked it all out.

The fuel test rig had a complete Concord fuel system laid out in a hanger, just no airframe around it!

The really worrying thing was that there were 2 prototypes sculling around the sky at this time!
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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#8 Post by TheGreenGoblin » Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:23 pm

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You must have somewhere
To go
Your destination remains
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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#9 Post by Pontius Navigator » Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:33 pm

I understood ii as I Copilots C, same difference.

On streaming, I think the max stream speed was 145kts, above that a sheer bolt would, hence the slower than normal.

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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#10 Post by Boac » Sun Oct 20, 2019 9:11 pm

Thanks, tgg - I had it as 13 months! Anyway, fabulous pics - all the old hairies! Jimmy Jewell, Harry Martin,Oscar Wild, Pete Chapman, Dobbo, Kevin Mace, Colin Cruickshaks, Terry Adcock and a very dapper BOAC et al.

EDIT: Just spotted the infamous Quingle, too...........

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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#11 Post by ExSp33db1rd » Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:38 am

When you got the feel for it you could trail the rear wheels onto the runway and then gently allow the aircraft to settle on the gear legs and the front set of wheels.
I did that with a Boeing 747 once - I think ! ( at least it felt like it )

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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#12 Post by Ex-Ascot » Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:55 am

ExSp33db1rd wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:38 am
When you got the feel for it you could trail the rear wheels onto the runway and then gently allow the aircraft to settle on the gear legs and the front set of wheels.
I did that with a Boeing 747 once - I think ! ( at least it felt like it )
Could do it with the VC10 land each bogie at a time on a long runway. Quite a few times I put it down so no one knew that we had landed. You basically flew it on asking the F/E for a very slow cut on the throttles. Got a cap on interview ordered by an AVM for a press report which said that the aircraft was landed so smoothly the press asleep on the tables didn't even wake up. Seat belt signs on those sort of flights were pointless. Actually what the Stn Cdr said was that if anyone asks you have had a bollocking.
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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#13 Post by Boac » Mon Oct 21, 2019 10:08 am

Quite a few times I put it down so no one knew that we had landed.
- "was that the wheel bearings rumbling or the passengers clapping"?

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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#14 Post by CharlieOneSix » Mon Oct 21, 2019 11:11 am

boing wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:47 pm
....As soon as I say now stream the chute, we will still be in the air but don't worry about it, it's OK.....
The only times I got nervous as a pax was on BA Tridents landing at Aberdeen on iffy nights. This was before the runway extension was built. Whilst still airborne you could hear 1 and 3 engines being selected with reverse thrust just before a bone shaker landing. A Trident pilot told me that reverse selection in the air was quite normal on short runways. One Trident crew went off the end of a wet Aberdeen runway into the grass back in, I think, 1978.
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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#15 Post by Slasher » Mon Oct 21, 2019 11:24 am

Liked to grease the 747-300 on while holding off as the LG lever protection thingy tinkle-tankled for several seconds till the mains untilted and went into Ground mode. SYD R34 was my fave where we’d roll to the near end to the Int’l tmnl.

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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#16 Post by Fox3WheresMyBanana » Mon Oct 21, 2019 11:42 am

The Tornado lift dump (L/D, spoilers) and thrust reverse (T/R) could be armed to activate on touchdown by rocking the throttles outboard. One could stop from 150 kts in about 1,200 ft, which was quite eye-watering and required the seat harnesses to be locked. A nav of mine confirmed his locked, but he had merely moved the lever back and it did not engage due to being trapped in a piece of flying clothing. He headbutted the TV tabs during the deceleration, but his helmet did its job.
It required a very stable approach as the L/D, T/R and mainwheel impact all generated a nose-down pitch moment, as did the pilot trying to get the nosewheel down. Get it wrong and the nosewheel leg could (and did) break with the forces involved.
The T/R was on the right throttle, allowing it to be deselected whilst leaving the L/D selected, should the T/R needed to be rapidly recycled during the landing roll, which was needed occasionally.

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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#17 Post by ian16th » Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:24 pm

I bet no one mentions the Beverley on this thread.
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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#18 Post by Boac » Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:27 pm

You are right. :))

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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#19 Post by Pontius Navigator » Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:54 pm

ian16th wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:24 pm
I bet no one mentions the Beverley on this thread.
Every landing a greaser after the first on that runway?

What was the headwind limit 😁

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Re: Don't touch it until I say "Now"

#20 Post by boing » Mon Oct 21, 2019 1:27 pm

Actually I knew a Beverley pilot who had been involved in low-level cargo delivery trials. The idea was that the aircraft would be flown low over the extraction zone and a hook system attached to the cargo pallets would dangle below the aircraft so that it would engage a cable somehow mounted on the ground. The cargo pallets were simply snatched out of the open load bay with the aircraft in flight and they crashed to the ground on inflated bases.

The cockpit of the Beverley was quite high above the ground which made height judgement difficult and the crews were having problems flying low enough to engage the aircraft hook on the ground wire. The aircraft had made several failed passes and everyone was getting very frustrated because the simple idea seemed to be so difficult to make work. Eventually the pilots got really aggressive and decided that the next pass was going to be successful.

Well, it was successful but the deep tyre marks in the grass were an unintended consequence and everyone agreed that it was a good thing that the Beverley had fixed landing gear.





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