Soul of the Skyraider
A U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation pilot describes what it’s like to fly three generations of ground attack aircraft.
- By Linda Shiner
- AirSpaceMag.com, August 14, 2012
Courtesy Greg Anders
(Page 3 of 6)
I started flying warbirds in the late 1990s, after I had flown in combat. My dad started the Heritage Flight Museum, and my brother and I basically run it. To be able to fly the predecessors to the airplanes I was flying [in the Air Force] at the time brought a lot of depth to my appreciation of the warbirds. And it helped me realize how important it is that we keep them flying so that later generations can understand the commitments and sacrifices made by those people who flew warbirds in combat to protect our freedom.
Do you feel a connection between the A-1 and the A-10?
The A-1 was designed when we thought we could design one airplane for both the Navy and the Air Force. And in fact I think it was a very successful dual-service aircraft. We tried to do something similar with the F-111, and that wasn’t very successful. It was a great Air Force airframe. But the Skyraider was a true multi-service airframe. And flying the Skyraider—you feel the soul of an A-10 when you’re flying a Skyraider. You’re flying the same thing, just different technologies.
What about the airplanes are similar?
The fact that you have this big fat, straight wing on both airplanes really is a good place to start. The A-10 has better metallurgy and better motors, and that allows you to make the airframe skinnier and smaller, but you essentially have almost exactly the same wing. By the way, with the velocity of the A-10, rather than putting the guns in the wings, you put one big gun in the nose. And really that’s the only difference. When I fly the Skyraider, it’s amazing how the feel of the cockpit—just in terms of the switches and gauges—were almost identical.
I flew the A-10 first. So when I had the opportunity to fly the Skyraider, basically I knew I was flying the same bloodline. So you asked if my bloodline contained the skills of a pilot. It’s a little hard to tell, and I think, yes, to a certain degree. But I guarantee the bloodline of the A-1 Skyraider runs deep through the A-10. When I got to fly the A-1 Skyraider in a Heritage Flight with the A-10, I focused on the task, but there was a little part of me the whole time that kept thinking, I’m flying an A-1 with an A-10 right now! This is history!
It’s really fun to watch Heritage Flights because everybody at the airshow stops.
When my dad was doing it before I had joined the team, I supported a couple airshows with him as kind of his ground guy. And at first I’d watch the Heritage Flight, after getting him launched. Then one day, I just decided to turn around and watch the crowd. And it was absolutely amazing to see as the Heritage Flight is doing its first pass, nobody is paying attention. They’re all talking, they’re eating their hot dogs, they’re playing with the kids. They’re just having fun waiting for the next act. And as soon as that Heritage Flight starts going by, they just stop and they look. It’s like somebody started to play the national anthem. It was unbelievable. Everybody’s head turned, they watched through the whole thing. And there’s a look of reverence on most of their faces. Most people get it.
At the time it was the P-51 flying with an F-15. And there was just this understanding that the greatest generation still lives today embodied in those men and women who are currently serving our country in uniform.
Have you flown both of those aircraft?
I flew the F-15E and I flew the A-10. So now I’m flying a P-51. And with the F-15 and P-51, it’s the same sort of thing I was describing in the A-10 and A-1. In the A-1, the flight harmonics are almost exactly the same as in the A-10. And the flight harmonics in the P-51 are almost exactly the same as in the F-15.
What do you mean by flight harmonics?