Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Rush of a Lifetime

Wow, how do I sum this up?

Saturday was my first flight in an L-39. It was, quite simply, the pinnacle experience of my life so far. When I jumped out of a plane a few years back over Australia I thought that nothing could ever top that experience, the pure euphoria that skydiving provided.

I was wrong, so very very wrong.

Thanks to a wonderful guy by the name of Tyson, I had an experience this past weekend so utterly profound and life altering that it puts that jump into a very very distant second place.

The flight started at Burbank airport in southern California and finished at Brown Field in San Diego. The stuff in the middle I just don't know how to put into words properly. I was given the chance to do what I have done in flight sim for 20 odd years, for real. I still can't wrap my head around it all. We did formation flight with another L-39, aerobatics, insane rolls, canyon runs, some extreme low level flight, and Tyson was kind and trusting enough to hand me the controls for about half of the flight.

So what's it like to fly an L-39? Well... its just like driving a Lotus Elise... in the vertical. The aircraft is just incredibly responsive to control input. There is no lag, no play in the stick, the slightest input elicits an instant response from the airplane. It's not the fastest accelerating or highest flying jet ever made but *wow* can that thing ever corner. In canyon runs and inverted passes over ridgelines we regularly hit 4-5G, and even with a G-suit it is just an utterly intense experience.

While I didn't experience even a blip of motion sickness or nausea at all, I found the first few aerobatic manoeuvres extremely disorienting. All of my previous real flying experience was absolutely worthless in this regime, and so oddly enough I found myself doing the same thing I did during my only in-flight emergency some years ago as PIC of a Cessna 172: I convinced myself I was back in Flight Simulator. Is that bizarre or what? Once I did that though I started keeping my head steady, using the canopy frames as references, ignoring the massive sensory assault from my body, and I was then able to stay perfectly oriented in any flight attitude. And then, insanity of insanities, I was handed the stick of this awesome little fighter.

I did several rolls, both barrel and aileron, as well as inverted pulls up the sides of mountains, over ridges, and back towards the ground, and a couple of truly wild canyon runs. To describe that experience as exhilarating just doesn't cover it. He also trusted me with landing the thing, giving me the opportunity to do a couple of touch and go approaches and despite a little apprehension on my part at first I found it incredibly easy to handle on approach and flare. In fact, believe it or not, I'd say it's actually easier to land than a 172. I'm not sure whether it's the airplane's 8000lb of inertia or its brilliant flight controls, but it's just gorgeously stable on approach.

I'm still digesting and analyzing the experience, but what I do know is that my new friend Tyson is one hell of a good pilot. He's one who knows his aircraft's limits and his own extremely well and doesn't step beyond them. He and his wife Anjuli are also incredibly gracious hosts and I feel very lucky to have met and gotten to know them a little.

And so with that, I'll just let some pictures, and more importantly a video, do the talking. The video link is at the bottom of the post. It's a little large, around 190 mb, but it covers some of the best 20 minutes of our 80 minute or so flight. I wish I could have recorded more of the aerobatics, I didn't have enough hands, or free brain cells, but it will definitely give you a good idea of what I experienced. I apologize for the shakiness of some of my footage. It's not the L-39 handling turbulence badly, quite the opposite, that plane just laughs at rough air, but rather my inability to keep my damned arm steady with such G loading, not to mention a diet of pure adrenaline. ;)

Secondarily I now have enough photo reference and personal experience in the L-39's cockpit to make one killer VC haha and a much much more accurate flight model. Back to work!

Tyson I truly can't thank you enough for your generosity. Thank you for one utterly amazing weekend mate. What a rush. I wish I could bottle this feeling.


Lotus' L-39 Flight Video Download

190mb, approx 20 mins


d0ugi3 said...

I can still say I beat you to aerobatic flight, I went up in a grob tutor on wednesday last week and did some rolls and loops, only pulled 4gs though.
It really is an experience to be remembered, but I can only empathise with you a little as the plane I flew was a little less poweful than the l-39. Let's say the one I flew cruised at 130knts :)

oh, before I forget, how does the Lotus L-39 fly compared to the real thing?

Lotus / Ramasurinen said...

Hehe nice one Dougie. The Lotus L-39 flies very much like the real thing actually, except for those times when it's in the air. ;)

I have some work to do.

Tyson said...

I am rediculously excited to know you, Lotus. Your work and dedication do inspire me, and there just aren't better people in the world to share jets with! I'm raising a glass to good times to come.

Vitek said...

That video is the best one I've seen and not only of L-39!!! Can I post a link to your blog on a Czech flight simmers website?

Jack said...

Thats just awesome. I remember seeing a L-39 at the airport I fly out of. Looks like it sure beats spins in a 152. Ha. Cool videos and photos. Maybe you should make a repaint of his plane.

ProdigyofPoalnd/Cody said...

Thats what I call photoreal scenery! Very cool. About 2 weeks ago I went up in a 182 over Boeing Field, Seattle. It was amazing to see it all from the sky. Amd I got to play around with the controls as well.

Can't wait for this to come out!

Lotus / Ramasurinen said...

Thanks Tyson and all! Vitek, I sent you an email, should be fine to link the post, bandwidth isn't a concern really.

And yup, Jack, Tyson's L-39's paint is absolutely on my to-do list. Love the midnight blue, it's menacing. :)

Vlad said...

Haha, congrats on the flight!I was really hoping to beating you to it, but luck wasn't smiling at me!

There were a couple of "flyable" L-39s in Kiev, but we had no permission to even photograph them. The closest I got to one,was located in a deserted air base and situated itself on top of a pedestal!(unflyable?)

Not minding that, I was taken into the air by one of THE sexiest jet trainers: the Talon T-38!!!Yeah! That's something to brag about!;)

Congrats on that lifetime experience, once again! Can't wait to feel how the real L-39 flies!;)


Thor's Hammer said...

Someone here have done one of his dreams ! You're a lucky guy for sure ! One of my best aeronautical souvenir was with a L-39 too. I was in final approach (LFGI, away from you isn't it ?) and one of the Breitling Jet Team's airplanes came from behind me and call me to say he will do a low level pass... I see him cross me at 200kt... what a sight...

AlphaWhiskeyFoxtrot said...

for 320K it's yours!
Scroll to the Bottom of the page to "Warbird - Turbine Engine"

kingsnake11 said...

congrats on the flight..now you know what it really feels like and how difficult it can be to describe the rush of emotions and dis-orientations of the first flight in a high performance aircraft. Just imagine now stepping up into something a little more powerful for the first time :-) .... it still lives in dreams for me, even after many years.

I see that you too were surprised at how reponsive this jet is; remember it is a trainer and you can't ham fist it :-) Regardless, what a great opportunity for you and I'm truely happy that you were able to do this. I have not doubt that your L-39 is going to be improved by your experience.

see ya online ( I hope )


Sundowner said...

Now, tell me... how does it feel to be hated by everyone ? ;P

Lotus / Ramasurinen said...

Haha, you're right Kingsnake. I can only imagine some of the stuff you went through in that regard. :)

And Sundowner... hated by everyone? I hope not! :) I'm still high from it though.

tony76 said...

Its really nice to meet you Lotus, and its nice to finally have the opportunity to say "Hello" around here, hehe. I love your work, thank you so much for sharing those great videos, I have been in flight simulation for many years and I wish we could fly together online, at least I am sure I will learn a lot from you, lol. Ok Lotus, take care always and have a nice day, keep up the good work!

Lotus / Ramasurinen said...

Thanks very much for the kind words Tony, I appreciate it. You're welcome to hop in my multiplayer session whenever you see it up. The details and password etc are on the sidebar on the main page of my blog. Cheers. :)