My Favorite Maneuver

The Mig-29 test flights provided multiple reasons to smile. I’ve been asked to recount memorable moments. For now, let me share the return from high altitude tests near Moses Lake.

As we completed our descent near Stevens Pass, fuel was adequate to practice aerobatics on a “monkey-see, monkey-do” basis. Some of these are presented in a You Tube sequence.

The Mig-29 will begin and complete a loop in afterburner at 250 knots. Speeds above 250 require altitude of at least 10,000, so that is where this maneuver began. Enormous thrust won the battle with weight. However, the afterburner loop can be timed using the downward track of the fuel arrows, so the more you do, the sooner you must go home. In contrast, the Mig-29 loops beautifully in idle at 500 knots. Get up to speed, retard the throttles and pull the stick in relative quiet. No bad habits. Now do it again while holding a camera. G-forces make it difficult to hit the “start” button. Stay steady over the top. Not too slow. Drop the nose. Pull through. No worries. Time for home.

For me, a low thrust, circular loop between 10 and 15,000 feet near Mount Baker has become a favorite memory. Perhaps its glow will endure until the fuel bill arrives.

John Sessions