Airborne Again

Those of you familiar with my novels or with me personally, know that I’m a big fan of aviation. From a young age, I’ve always liked airplanes and flying. When I was a teenager, I joined the Civil Air Patrol and got to ride in small planes as a cadet. When I got to High School, my dad bought a Cessna 150 and I learned to fly in it. I never did complete my license, but I racked up lots of time in that old trainer.

Skip forward thirty years and now I have kids in CAP and I’m an adult member. This past weekend I finally got to train as a Mission Scanner for CAP. It was my first time back on a small plane in three decades. For at least one sortie, I even got to fly search grids in the Cessna 182 assigned to my CAP Squadron. It was a fun day of classroom work and actual flying.

I spend many hours a month attending CAP meetings, training and activities. For someone like me who writes about imaginary starfighter pilots, being able to fly with an actual civilian auxiliary of the USAF, is invaluable writer fuel. I never got to fly in the Air Force, but in CAP I can be part of an aircrew and help my fellow citizens by finding downed aircraft, missing persons or helping to assist the AF with air intercept missions.

If you’ve always wanted to do something like that, look up the nearest CAP squadron near you and attend their meetings. It’s a great organization for aviation-minded students and adults.


My Latest Obsession with Wings

I’ve always been fascinated with airplanes. My current obsession is a two seat propeller driven attack plane from Embraer, a Brazilian aerospace conglomerate. The A-29 Super Tucano is the latest version of an air frame developed in the 1980’s.

Aeronave A-29 Super Tucano em voo sobre a Floresta Amazônica.

This tough little airplane has been purchased by the Afghan Air Force for use in Close Air Support against ISIS. The USAF are training the AAF pilots in Florida and then deploying the planes to the Middle East. In fact the Tucano is one of several platforms being considered by the USAF as a possible A-10 CAS replacement. So the aircraft is in the news and in the mind space of current aerospace leaders. I follow all things aviation and that’s how I learned about the little propeller driven attack plane.

Above is one of the AAF Tucano’s in country. It looks like the plane has received extra armor plates as well as two wing pylons  and a center mount for hanging munitions.

It has even been fitted with laser guided bombs, the mainstay of modern air to ground warfare.

As an aircraft aficionado, I appreciate the clean lines and wicked look of the Super Tucano. My litmus test is often, “would I want to fly this aircraft?” and with the Tucano it’s a resounding “Hell, yes!”. I bet this is just as fun to fly as an A-10. The later is a jet that really doesn’t go that much faster than the Tucano. I’ve flown an A-10 simulator and it really didn’t feel that much different than a Cessna. So replacing a jet with a turbo prop is not something that concerns me at all.

The cockpit is pressurized and thus requires oxygen masks. The seats are both ejection types just like on jet fighters. Check out that 12.7 mm gun on each wing! Reminds me of WWII fighters.

I’m also a former AMMO troop, so I do love the ordinance this bird can heft and chuck.

Here are a couple of Mk-82 bombs ready for action. The yellow stripes indicate live munitions.

Here’s the obligatory cutaway view of the plane with some common ordinance.

I’ve ordered a 1/48 scale model of the Super Tucano so I’ll soon be building it just like I did as a kid. I think it will look sharp on my desk. I’m leaning towards a Brazilian Air Force camo version like the planes above.