Sometimes you gotta do something different….flying in a Nanchang CJ6 military training aircraft

When:  May 2015       Weather: Hot 35-40C

Leica M240.  35mm Summilux and Nikon P100

Warren had long invited me to join him in his hobby…formation flying with his friends in a group called the Falcon Warbirds Formation Flying team.  They fly old…and I mean old single propeller ex-military aircraft from China, like the Nanchang CJ6 which is the longest production military trainer still in production today and the Yak52 from Russia, a very similar aircraft. Their group of 10 ace flyers perform aerial acrobatics and fly in formation at distances of only 3 feet..yes, 3 feet from each other!

So when I finally had some time after my daughter’s graduation in Bostton, I headed over to Falcon Field airport in Arizona to take him up on his offer with not a little trepidation…after all these were single propeller aircraft…very old…and there were going to be other aircraft flying very close….and when I searched the internet for information on the Nanchang CJ6, the first U tube video I saw was of a crash landing of a CJ6 in another airfield in Arizona!  But I was reassured when Warren told me he maintained the aircraft himself and he flew it 2-3 times everyweek…and Warren is one of these guys who is so good at the things he does that I went along gamely…

the hangar used by the Falcon Warbirds

the hangar used by the Falcon Warbirds

The enormous hangar housed the ten aircraft that made up the team..this hangar was actually used in the second world war...

The enormous hangar housed the ten aircraft that made up the team..this hangar was actually used in the second world war…..such a cool historic fact

Warren towing his Nanchang CJ6 out of the hangar...

Warren towing his Nanchang CJ6 out of the hangar…

the insignia on the fuselage showed 8-1 to commemorate the August 1 incident in China

the insignia on the fuselage showed 8-1 to commemorate the August 1 incident in China

Warren sat in front of course...

Warren sat in front of course…

and the instruments had Chinese writing on them! Here it says fuel door..I think it means throttle...!

and the instruments had Chinese writing on them! Here it says fuel door..I think it means throttle…!

We had a thorough briefing before take off...and a debriefing on landing...all dsone properly without compromise...reassuring!

We had a thorough briefing before take off…and a debriefing on landing…all done properly without compromise…reassuring!

Warren's Nanchang CJ6 resplendent in dark green with his call sign Lobo 46

Warren’s Nanchang CJ6 resplendent in dark green with his call sign Lobo 46

He had upgraded his propeller to an 8.5 ft diameter one to suck the air more efficiently!

He had upgraded his propeller to an 8.5 ft diameter one to suck the air more efficiently!

I had half jokingly asked if we needed parachutes...and he said absolutely....which was a little worrying..and I was taught how to put it on, jump out of the aircraft and pull the rip cord!

I had half jokingly asked if we needed parachutes…and he said absolutely….which was a little worrying..and I was taught how to put it on, jump out of the aircraft and pull the rip cord!

The other aircraft to be used by Franc and his instructor was the Russian Yak52..a very similar place to the Nanchang

The other aircraft to be used by Franc and his instructor was the Russian Yak52..a very similar place to the Nanchang

Franc was training to be a formation flyer and thankfully there the chief instructor flew with him on day 1….I didn’t really want Franc flying into us from the back…..

This was the blazing Arizonian sun beating down on us at temperatures of 40C by late morning...

This was the blazing Arizonian sun beating down on us at temperatures of 40C by late morning…

These were the two planes lined up and prepared for flight...

These were the two planes lined up and prepared for flight…

After ATC gave us the all clear, we taxied to the runway and lined up side by side before we trundled away and up....

After ATC gave us the all clear, we taxied to the runway and lined up side by side before we trundled away and up….

You can see Franc in front and Scott the instructor behind...

You can see Franc in front and Scott the instructor behind…

My view from the back seat....we had radio comms all the time and once my initial anxieties were overcome, the ride was great...until we started maneouvring

My view from the back seat….we had radio comms all the time and once my initial anxieties were overcome, the ride was great…until we started maneouvring

Part of the fun of formation flying, as I am told, is to perform air maneouvres like break aways, rolls, underpasses, etc….there is a precise set of hand signals used between the pilots…or waggling the wings…this was when I started feeling queasy in the tummy despite having only had a light breakfast….by the time he got to doing the breakaways….which is turning the plane to a 45 degree angle and peeling away, I wasn’t feeling so good….

Thankfully I managed to hold it together and we landed after a 50 min flight….phew! The debrief was interesting as the chief instructor pointed out areas where both pilots did good or less good.  Much like us debriefing a trainee surgeon after his cataract surgery….  What impressed me overall was how much emphasis there was on safety, contingencies…eg what if your engine dies…… At no time were chances taken.  Scott then told Franc he was good enough to go solo on his next flight….and he arranged with Warren to be his flight leader the next day again…

I wasn’t intending to go for another flight at first but since I finished my birding early the next day, I decided to join them again…exp as they said the air-sickness gets less each time you do it…the only thing was that this time Franc wouldn’t have an instructor behind him keeping him safe and stopping him from ramming into our ass…..but que sera sera so the next day, we were off again…

Franc all ready to go..

Franc all ready to go..

All on his own not very far from me...but doing a great job and executing his moves perfectly...

All on his own not very far from me…but doing a great job and executing his moves perfectly…

view of the Flacon warbirds hangar from the air as we came in to land

view of the Falcon warbirds hangar from the air as we came in to land

And I have to say I enjoyed the gentle second day much more than the first....

And I have to say I enjoyed the gentle second day much more than the first….

What an experience this was…another thing off the bucket list…new friends…thanks to Warren!

One thought on “Sometimes you gotta do something different….flying in a Nanchang CJ6 military training aircraft

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s