It has been 35 years since the U.S. NAVY allowed me to fly the A-4 Skyhawk and the F-8 Crusader.
One can get very busy with life's other challenges and assign those experiences to the past - pleasant memories, but history.
That is what I thought until the noon-time show at last year's Heart of Ohio Jet Scramble when Dean Cutshall thrilled the crowd with his F-100F Super Sabre afterburner fly-bys. I asked Terry Nitsch, "How does one get a ride in the back seat?" Big "T" made the arrangements and I got my opportunity at the 2003 event.
Dean "Cutter" Cutshall (also a former Navy A-4 pilot) graciously greeted my arrival and provided an hour-long briefing on the flight, instruction on flight gear use, cockpit procedures, etc. His emphasis was on my enjoyment of the flight. My emphasis was to try not to screw anything up, after all it has been 35 years.
In an effort to prepare, I borrowed an F-100F - 1 manual from neighbor and friend, Bob Lampke, who flew the "Hun" in the Air Guard at Ft. Wayne some years past.
A few days of studying the "dash one" does not fully prepare one, but at least I gained some knowledge of the airframe, power system, hydraulics, electrical, and the ejection seat capabilities. Dean is in control of all that stuff, but it is nice to know the basics.
35 years away from this type of flying can make one a bit rusty, so I was not the smoothest dude on the controls. At least, I did not bend any metal or make Dean sick.
The F-100 is known for its adverse yaw affect with aileron input, so rudder use is paramount. Even a simple aileron roll is made with generous foot pressure on the appropriate rudder pedal.
The "Hun" is really in its element above 300 kts, the control response and stability are best above that speed, reflecting the design capability for supersonic jets of that era. Pitch and yaw stabilization systems are employed to help smooth things out.
Like all jet fighters, when it is "down and dirty" in the landing pattern, it is a power-up affair, about 85-90% rpm to maintain. This is where the model and the real thing are most similar, you just don't reduce power more than a fraction until over the "numbers" and setup to flare.
"Cutter" coached me through 3 approaches and go-arounds at the Fort Wayne airport. Landing pattern speed is 230 knots and half flaps. The speed at the "90" and on final is a function of weight (fuel remaining). As full flaps are selected there is a slight trim change and need to adjust power.
Visibility from the back seat is great during the approach turn but when I rolled out on final, the runway all but disappeared and I had a great view of the back of Dean's ejection seat making the go-around an instrument maneuver.
Dean then put on quite an airshow for the Fort Wayne locals with 4 more afterburner low passes.
The final nose high touchdown speed was about 160 kts, and yes, you can feel the drogue chute deploy, followed by some serious wheel braking.
Communications between the fore and aft cockpits is via a "Hot Mike" system in the oxygen mask, so it stays securely clipped to both sides of your helmet even during the taxi back. When Dean broadcasts "Clear Canopy", you make sure your arms and hands are close in and the huge, massively reinforced clam shell slowly rises. It was a beautiful, clear, 80° day so the fresh air and breeze from the taxi speed was welcomed, but of course, it was a sign that the fun was about to end.
Now you can rest your arms on the canopy rails, release one side of the O² mask and wave to the ground personnel and feel real cool - a fighter pilot again and it only required 1,200 gallons of fuel.
Just like getting strapped into the rather complex harness system of the ejection seat, disembarking the Hun required some help from Paul Zwick, the maintenance chief of this former war machine. Paul's Air Force career prepared him for this mission and it is his daily delight to keep Buz #63948 in perfect condition.
Many thanks to Dean (Cutter) Cutshall, Paul Zwick, and Larry Brown (also a former F-100 guy who took most of these photos) for a most rewarding and exhilarating experience.
Thanks also to Terry Nitsch and the members of the T.O.R.K.S. club who handled all of the arrangements and logistics to make my ride so easy to accomplish.
If you would like to read more about this one-of-two flying F-100's in the world, there was a great article in the October 2000 issue of Flight Journal, an Air Age Publication. See www.airage.com.
The story of the F-100F at war is best captured in a book called "Misty" by Major General Don Shepperd USAF (Ret.) - www.mistyvietnam.com. It is a compilation of stories from the surviving members of the "Misty FACs" or Fast Forward Air Controllers during the Vietnam War. The 155 Mistys rank at the top of the bravest, most "shot at" fighter pilots of that war - and that statement is from an 83 mission NAVY pilot of the same era (1967).