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U2 @ Akrotiri

Old 6th Dec 2011, 13:05
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I certainly did not see a black glider like thing outside the 51 sqn hangar ay Wyton in the early 1990's one night. I didnt see a bloke in a space suit emerge from it either. Never asked and still cant figure out why it was there as Alconbury was just down the road.

I came over to Wyton the next day to assist with recovery of that plane. The reason that it diverted to Wyton was simply because of crosswinds outside of safe limits at Alconbury. Not sure of the angular relationship of the Wyton runway versus that at Alconbury but that was the reason that it stopped off there rather than coming back home.
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 14:33
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Thank you wclark1238, thats put my mind at rest after all these years. I was an MT driver at Wyton on nights that night and someone said there was something rather special on the airfield so I had a drive up to see what it was. I remember stopping in my tracks when I saw it and thought I might be shooed away but wasnt so I hung around to see the pilot get out. All very exciting for a young airman as I was back then
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 14:51
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I also remember 2 F3's asking if they could go and have a look at the incoming local, the pilot replied most certainly come up and join me in the descent, F3 pilot 'sounds good what is your level', FL 590 descending, ah says F3 pilot we might wait a while and then have a look.
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 15:56
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Seems the limit for crosswind landings was/is 15 knots. Weather forecast for scheduled landing time was often the cause of aborted missions whilst I was at Alconbury. During my 4 plus years working on the programme I don't recall too many diversions, certainly the one to Wyton stands out in my memory because I went across to assist in the preparation for it to fly out again. The weather forecast checking during pre-flight meant that plenty never took off in the first place but not many didn't come home when expected.

Just found this link which might make interesting reading, particularly for the aviators amongst you.

www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/u2v3.pdf
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 16:40
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OK Oldman see ya
Can you beat? Press ganged (National Service) in Mar 1959 as a F.C.W. Flying Clothing Worker. then a trade on it's own .
After taking SEW (P) and SEW(D) Parachute and Dingy courses at RAF Weeton. Then the Advanced Course which inclued painting and doping and fabric bashing to become one of the last Safety Equipment Worker J/Ts
(1964) Plus 45 years of Squippering 1959-2004

Removing polish off floors tried them all thinners - white spirit -Turps-
CTN yes but my favourite was always TRIC but it was a long time ago
Health and Safety whats that.

And yes the spaceman was a fully booted and spurred balloon driver.

So Oldman if you can trump me.

WISHING YOU A HAPPY CHRISTMAS. Ancient
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 17:38
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just read LXXIV' s info on the sad crash at Akrotiri on 7 dec 1977.

on that day I was co-pilot on a Nimrod crew from Malta due to take off at about 0900. As we left the mess we heard, and saw the smoke from, the crash.

obviously our sortie was cancelled but had we left about 10 mins earlier our crew would have been in met and the ops block , which were both badly damaged.Our secrets box in ops was destroyed -lady luck smiled on us that day!

as a follow up about a year later when 203 squadron was disbanded any documents which could not be immediately found were obviously in the Akrotiri ops fire and written off!! this caused quite a lot of embarrassment when they subsequently turned up!!
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 18:39
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That is absolutely NOT what the chase vehicle is for. It's there because the visibility from the cockpit is so bad that judging height in the latter stages of landing is very difficult. Plus the main wheels have very little suspension and slowing it down is a trick. So, the chase is there to count down altitude to the pilot in feet so that he can feel his way onto the runway. Get that bit wrong and it will knock your fillings out.

Secondly, chase never tried to position itself under the wingtip of a moving U2/TR1. Your thinking of an old episode of Thunderbirds. It's a chase vehicle with a radio, not International Rescue. Hey, good idea for the SARH thread!!!
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 18:54
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You are all out of order. You should have stopped trying to be clever four pages ago. Understand the damage you can do by being so careless.

STOP NOW. As if it isn't too late already. Just don't do it to amuse yourselves.
Poke off . . . even the Yanks have written about it.
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 20:54
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The oldest TR1 pilot was 28 (if I remember correctly).The youngest was 24. The pilots were extremely unimpressed with what they did. Their job was purely to lift the A/C off the ground & fly it up to cruising altitude. They would then hand over control of the A/C to the pre-programmed navigational computer/ground control & try to cure their boredom by reading a book for the next few hours, whilst somebody else flew the A/C...

After several hours of looking through a space helmet their vision was severely impaired with "tunnel vision", hence the need for a chase vehicle with another TR1 pilot to talk the TR1 down on finals & support a wing.
Most of that is complete and utter bolleaux.

1. The average age of a U2 / TR1 pilot is much older than you state.
2. No-one flies the U2 who hasn't volunteered, passed stringent assessment and been accepted. They are all very proud of what they do.
3. The U2 flies to a very close margin between normal stall speed and shock stall speed, sometimes known as 'coffin corner'. To fly to such accuracy for hours on end mandates a very capable autopilot. The route was pre-defined; the U2 is not a 'manned drone'.
4. The purpose of the chase pilot and vehicle are emphatically not as you describe, but as APG63 describes.

But yes, you are right, quite a few U2 pilots read the odd novel at altitude whilst watching MiG-23s floundering about below them.

On a certain aircraft type I flew, we had a role similar to a certain USAF role and worked closely with our US colleagues. Amongst whom was an ex-U-2 pilot on a classified ground tour. At one of the locations of our US colleagues, a U-2 detachment shared the base. We were fortunate enough to be invited by our ex-U-2 chum to visit the U-2 det for a good look around the jet and to chat with the operators. A few days later, 2 of us were invited to watch the whole U-2 mission launch. We'd had a few beers with the pilot a day or so earlier - he was a bird colonel of less than youthful years. Obviously we couldn't attend the classified NOFOR mission brief itself, but we joined the pilot during the last few minutes of his pre-oxygenation, then followed him through environmental check out and his ride out to the jet (already checked with engine running). It took him less than a minute to strap in and be ready. Then a green light from the mission cell and off he went to the runway with us following in the chase car. On the runway, the chase belts down the runway doing a quick final FoD check, then turns back to sit where the U-2 pilot can see, before giving a thumb-up signal. Immediately the U-2 is slammed to max thrust and the chase sets off after it to recover the outrigger pogos.

By the time we got back to the det, the U-2 was already well out of sight. Then off we went to 'do breakfast' with our US host.

What the jet does is vaguely known. Where it does it and when is and must remain a closely guarded secret.

It was a huge privilege to have been given such an insight into the world of those who fly the U-2 - something I'll never forget.
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 21:07
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BEagle

Very interesting and as you say, a privilege.

re SAMXXV, I don't think many believe what he writes. After all, you only have to watch the James May / U2 Flight to see the whole process from start to finish to have some semblance of an idea of what goes on. And that's without even going to Youtube where multiple close up U2 Landings and take off's are shown.

SAM
With all the top class hardware the Yanks have, why would anyone do a flying job they didn't like when so many other "you beaut" options are available ? Especially if they are so young like you suggest ?

Last edited by 500N; 6th Dec 2011 at 21:37.
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 21:28
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BEagle. I concur entirely with what you say. A "few knots" between stall and transonic at very high altitude in a straight wing, powered glider. I too, support APG63's description of the purpose of the chase vehicle.

And, yes, all the guys on the programme that I met in various locations were older than their 20s and all fiercely proud of what they did. An utterly professional bunch of guys. 500N made that point very well.
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 22:41
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Thank you once again wclark1238, im not an aviator, well apart from flying a Slingsby Venture T2 solo for a circuit of RAF Cosford when I was 16 but ive always had a great interest in aviation which seems to take more of my time up the older I get. Many thanks for posting the link up, ill be happy enough tonight with a glass of wine reading through that.
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 23:05
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An ancient Squipper indeed!

Sir - I bow to your longevity - you truely are ancient!....I am well and truely trumped.

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Old 7th Dec 2011, 01:44
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And there is never a bad time to link to the most awesome flying video in the world in space.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eamnTyfkUBY
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Old 7th Dec 2011, 09:18
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In the late 1960s/early70s, whilst I was on a visit to Akrotiri, the Station Commander arranged for a reception for a visiting US VIP (I think). He noticed that none of the US officers involved with the weather balloons was present, and despatched a minion to winkle them out. They arrived shortly thereafter, followed by several WRAF officers, some still buttoning up their blouses.

The book "By Any Means Necessary - America's Secret Air War" by William E Burrows (ISBN 0 09 943625 6) is an interesting read.
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Old 7th Dec 2011, 10:03
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Re SMetO Jack Flawn.

Very sad - knew his wife, his son and daughter. The kids were about the same age as me. They were really good people but always had a slight sadness about them - understandably, of course - but at the time, I didn't realise why.
It was only when I flew into AKR, as a young co-pilot, I put 2 and 2 together and made the connection. I always thought of them whenever I visited the ops block and met by the tower.

The highly-regarded Jack Flawn was a keen sailor and lived in the same Welsh village as my parents. Now Jack, Vida and my folks are all buried close together in same beautiful churchyard overlooking the sea.

RIP
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Old 7th Dec 2011, 16:59
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Wonderful!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eamnTyfkUBY

I deduce from this vid that `wheels` up should be the primary mode....

I sympathise with the jocky though - I had similar difficulties with some of the early `Biiiiiiiiig span` sailplanes!
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Old 7th Dec 2011, 17:08
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I think I recall hearing (from one of the pilots) something like if they were 1-2 kts fast, they wouldn't touchdown until half way down the runway and would probably run off the end. 1-2 kts slow and they'd probably stall it on and lose their teeth. Looks like great fun. Hours of boredom followed by one of the hardest landings ever.
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Old 7th Dec 2011, 17:37
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even better

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Old 7th Dec 2011, 18:52
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M2
Agree re Mad. Never seen the video before, it is very well done.

Re arrested landings, is the tail structure of the U2 strong enough ?

From memory I read something a long time ago that the tail is only held on with 3 bolts to help keep the weight down ????

Last edited by 500N; 7th Dec 2011 at 19:32.
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