Lima Lima

Here’s  a follow on to the last post with thoughts on flight in  IMC. Fellow aviation buff  Tom forwarded this amazing video of the Lima Lima flight demonstration team in a three ship formation inside a cloud. They squeak it on at an airport fifteen minutes north of my home.  

If you think that flying a tight formation in good weather is a challenge, try to do it in IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) inside of a cloud with no horizon. Without any outside references, you swear that the leader has you in a 45 degree descending turn. You are constantly fighting off vertigo by snatching a one second look at your artificial horizon. If you take two seconds you may loose sight of the leader and have to declare “Lost Wingman.” At that point you have to separate from the formation by both heading and altitude as briefed. Then you get introduced by the leader to Air Traffic Control as a new flight. Of course you already have all of your charts and approach plates out…not! That’s why you never want to lose sight even in the thickest of clouds

There are four great flight demonstration teams in my opinion. Blue Angels; Thunderbirds; Snowbirds and Lima Lima. Lima Lima was formed at, and named after, the small airport that’s 20 minutes south in Naperville, IL. wedge-loop

It’s the world’s only six ship civilian formation aerobatic team. In better weather, Tom has flown in the trunk with the team and has been kind enough not to compare my flying skills afterward.  lima-limaSometimes I’m lucky and I’ll see  one or more of the yellow  T-34’s flying overhead on approach to runway 2L at KDPA. Then, I want to go flying.

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14 responses to “Lima Lima

  1. virgil xenophon

    I wouldn’t want to do that in a T-34 myself–though heavier that a Cessna T-72, etc., they’re still light enough to get tossed around enough that you can’t really close in tight. In military jets you can suck up and stick your wing-tip right under lead with only about 2′ of separation with no fear except in really, really high gusting winds..

    • I’d never thought of the differences in formation flying based on aircraft type. Makes sense. The low wing loading on small planes can render them more like a kite in gusty winds.
      Then there’s the issue of spar failures on the the Mentor. Although there’s a fix in place it would make me wary.

  2. virgil xenophon

    I should add that”Lima Lima” brings back memories of Vietnam/Laos. We had a TS STOL site called “Lima Site 85” on top of a mountain in Laos to provide TACAN NAVAIDS and a “MSQ-81” Radar bombing capability support for strikes into N. Vietnam that was overrun with most killed. I read the TS report on the affair which was heart-breaking. Google it and read the Wiki entry, then scroll down and read “The Fall of Lima Site 85” by John Correll at bottom of ist Google entry page.–from an article in AF Magazine–very comprehensive and a fascinating must read.

    • Always learn something from your history lessons Virgil (just received the Big Show). Lima site 85 is another example of accounts of dramatic battles that are sometimes lost to almost all who hadn’t lived through the experince or knew of those who did.
      Brave men.

    • This was the first battle over a NavAid that I had ever read. I had not thought of their vital role during the Vietrnam war until now.
      While GPS was not available, why didn’t inertial navigation systems provide targeting and vectors?

  3. virgil xenophon

    At their BEST, the Litton tech reps (in the case of F-4s) could tweak the INS standard deviation to a +or – 5nm–at their BEST–sometimes they’d be + or – 15. The MSQ-77/81 series was simply a mobile (hence the M) version of the old SAC fixed ground installation practice radar bombing scoring system reverse engineered to provide a highly accurate tactical radar bombing system for night drops. Plus signals off standard TACAN radials tended to fade, making the DME readings inaccurate at extreme range.

  4. virgil xenophon

    I should have clarified that although theoretically TACAN readings should stay accurate, the radar cross-section they would paint with a full load of bombs was different than a slick aircraft. Many’s the time we bombed off the DaNang TACAN radials at night over in Laos and as soon as the bombs were pickled off if you watched the needle real close, it would jump to a diff setting–which true radial WERE we bombing off of? LOL–who the hell knows where those bombs really went…..

  5. virgil xenophon

    Probably managed to kill a lot of Monkeys, tho…..

    • That was amazingly inaccurate compared to the precision we have now.
      But we were measuring that war in tons of bombs dropped and body counts. Didn’t matter that we might bomb the same sites repeatedly or as the First Cav would attest, reclaim the same ground over again and again.

  6. virgil xenophon

    The difference between the electronics we had then and what they have now is like the difference
    between using sticks to make fire and a $10, ooo
    stainless steel out-door gas grill.

  7. virgil xenophon

    On re-read, I really got sloppy about the TACAN drift by using the term “radar cross section.” What I MEANT to say that when the deviation cursor on the HSI shifted upon bombs being pickled off the only conclusion we drew was that all that extra metal had been changing the electro-magnetic shape of the aircraft (which is in a way a radar cross-section except Tacan ain’t radar–but it IS electrons) in relation to the TACAN beam–thus providing false readings– clear as mud?

    • There may be some differences in a TACAN vs. the VOR and VORTAC’s I use. The signals are picked up using antennas on the stabilizer. It’s not cross section sensitive and tracks to a radial.

      The DME stations transmit in response to requests from the aircraft transmitter calculating delay between request /response. (They usually have an antenna mounted on the VORTAC). I still can’t figure out how difference in mass or cross section would affect that but maybe some astute reader can give us the gouge.

  8. virgil xenophon

    Oh, I know it “shouldn’t” have affected the signal, but all I know is when the bombs left, the cursor would jump–but I’m just a liberal arts guy, not an EE major.

    • I believe you. I still look for explanations as to the Gremlin’s that have occasionally haunted some of my flying experiences.
      Son #2 graduated with a EE this week. (Same degree as Son #1). I should be able to get an opinion after all that investment. ; )

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